Charles Leclerc endured a lonely United States Grand Prix as the Scuderia Ferrari driver struggled to get his tyres to work as he would have wanted, meaning he finished down in fourth position.
Ahead of the weekend, Ferrari were expected to be the pacesetters at the Circuit of the Americas but come race day, their pace compared to both the Mercedes AMG Motorsport and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing teams was not strong, leaving Leclerc to race all alone as the leading trio pulled clear.
Leclerc said he found it difficult to get the front tyres in particular where they needed to be, meaning he lost touch with the top three, although he did have the consolation of setting the fastest lap and securing the extra bonus point on offer.
“It was a really tough race, especially during the first stint where the front tyres did not feel right,” admitted Leclerc. “It was difficult to find the grip and we have to look into how exactly that happened.
“The other two stints were a bit better, but not good enough. Our competitors were just too quick, so it was a rather lonely race for me today. It’s a shame for the team that we didn’t finish the race with both cars.
“Congratulations to Lewis for the title. He is a great champion and deserves it.”
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel saw his chances of points end early as his right-rear suspension broke on the eighth lap, leaving him stranded at the side of the road as the race’s first retirement.
He had started second but a poor first couple of laps had seen him fall to seventh, with Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Leclerc, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo all getting ahead as he too suffered with his tyres.
“I am very disappointed that I had to retire, because I was hoping for a good race,” said Vettel. “I had very poor grip on the first lap and had to let a lot of cars by. I struggled to get the car to work, especially in right hand corners, maybe something was already broken on the car.
“Then, after seven laps the suspension failed over the bump in turn 8. At that time, I hadn’t done anything different to the previous laps over the whole weekend. I think today we had the potential for a podium, so it’s a shame.
“Finally, I want to congratulate Lewis for his wonderful achievement.”
Team Principal Mattia Binotto says the performance at the Circuit of the Americas was below par and does not mirror the kind of performance level Ferrari has been capable of in recent races.
From second and fourth on the grid, Binotto says they were not expecting such a difficult afternoon in Texas, and they will be looking into why the pace dropped off as much as it did, particularly in the opening stint.
“First of all I’d like to congratulate Lewis for clinching yet another World Championship title,” said Binotto. “It is well deserved and was achieved in style.
“As for our race, we were expecting much more from today. Seb had a problem with the right rear suspension, when the upper arm broke at a very early stage of the race. We think this issue was probably there from the first lap, but we need to look into it to understand exactly what happened.
“Charles’ race was compromised by his first set of tyres, on which he had no grip at all. We could not understand why he was so slow and off the pace. In the second and third stint he had good pace, but it’s difficult to compare it to that of the others, as everyone was in a different tyre situation at that point. In the final stint, he then found the car much more to his liking on soft tyres and set the fastest lap.
“We now have a lot to analyse and to understand. We are deeply disappointed as we don’t believe this result mirrors our current performance level. There’s something to learn from any bad result and this is what we plan to do now.”