Leclerc: Mix-up behind late race struggles
7 October 2017 – Newly-crowned Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc says a communication mix-up was behind his lack of pace during the closing stages of a thrilling Feature Race at Jerez.
Leclerc dominated from pole position, opening an 11-second advantage on Option tyres during the first stint, and he preserved the lead during the second stint, despite Oliver Rowland closing in.
A late Safety Car period bunched the pack, but at the restart, given with five laps left, Leclerc surged 1.5 seconds clear, aided by the lapped Sean Gelael being between himself and Rowland.
However, Leclerc erroneously believed that he was on the final lap, after receiving the wrong information from his Prema team, and had taken additional performance from his tyres.
Leclerc's pace duly deteriorated and he clung to the lead across the final handful of laps, crossing the line with a buffer of just 0.230s over Rowland to clinch victory, and with it the title.
"On the Option tyres we were very, very quick, but then we were struggling more than Oliver on the Prime tyres: I don't really know why for now," said Leclerc.
"I pushed quite a lot, and when he was doing quite quick lap times I told myself he maybe just wanted to catch up a little bit and he might not be keeping the tyres.
"Just before the Safety Car I started to pick up the pace also, and we were more or less equal: he was a little bit quicker, but not as much as the laps before.
"When we saw the Safety Car I thought 'okay, it's going to be a lot harder now!'
"Because I was pushing to keep the gap up, when the Safety Car came out I had no tyres left and I was a bit scared!
"The tyres seemed to cool a little bit and the team told me 'last lap' so [I thought it was] perfect, only one lap to do so I will push like crazy.
"Then they said 'no, [there is] one lap more' and I thought 'another lap, okay, I can push again'.
"But there were two laps more and I had absolutely no tyres left!
"That made things very, very hard but I managed to stay in front, and I had Sean behind me who was cutting the gap between me and Oliver so he lost a bit of time."
Leclerc also dedicated his title triumph to his late father, Hervé, who passed away a few days prior to the Baku round of the championship in June.
"Winning the championship is an amazing way for me to honour him, and actually I would like to dedicate this title for him," he said.
"I would prefer to not dedicate any other titles in the future.
"Last year I dedicated [GP3] to Jules [Bianchi], this year to my father, so hopefully next year I don't, well, next year maybe it might be a bit more difficult [to win a title].
"But hopefully I don't need to dedicate any other titles."