It wasn’t just Red Bull that had a spat on the radio about a team order towards the end of the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc asked his Ferrari team to swap places with his team-mate Carlos Sainz against the backdrop of second place in the drivers’ standings, where the Monegasque is in a battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
A late safety car period following Lando Norris’ retirement brought Leclerc back into the fray after the pair touched on the opening lap, after which Leclerc went off into the tyre barrier at turn six. However, his F1-75 was only damaged on the front wing, so he was able to continue.
Both Ferraris were on relatively new soft tyres in the closing stages, which allowed them to easily pass Perez in the Red Bull, who was still on older mediums. When the places seemed to be occupied with the two Mercedes at the top, followed by Sainz and Leclerc, the Monegasque knocked on the radio if he could take over the podium place from Sainz.
Radio traffic from Leclerc: why he wasn’t allowed to pass
“Think about the World Championship if the positions stay like this,” he says in the direction of his race engineer Xavier Marcos Padros. Shortly before the end he adds:
“Please think about the championship!”, to which Padros replies: “We think it’s too dangerous.”
This was because while Leclerc was about three seconds behind his team-mate, there was danger from behind from Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen, who were just over a second behind and had slightly better pace than Leclerc. The Alpine driver had the best tyres of all the drivers in the field at this point.
However, he is not exactly thrilled with his team’s decision after the race.
“Fantastic job,” his race engineer congratulates Leclerc on the strong catch-up on the radio, to which Leclerc sarcastically replies: “Yes! Unbelievable! Mamma mia. Come on!”
Leclerc contradicts Ferrari race director Mekies
Ferrari race director Laurent Mekies, who is standing in for team boss Mattia Binotto, who has stayed in Maranello, as Ferrari’s top man in Brazil, also radios into Leclerc’s car after crossing the finish line:
“Well done, Charles. You did the best that was possible for us. There were other reasons why we couldn’t do the swap at the end.”
Leclerc’s reply promptly follows, “I have no idea what other reasons you are talking about, but whatever.”
What is interesting here is that just a few weeks ago Leclerc said that second place in the championship meant nothing to him and that he just wanted to use the last races to help Ferrari improve their procedures on race weekends.
Before the last race in Abu Dhabi, he is now tied with Perez on 290 points, with Leclerc in second place because he has one more win than the Mexican. This makes it clear: Whoever finishes the race in Abu Dhabi further ahead will take P2 in the championship. If both fail to score any points, Leclerc is assured of the vice championship.