Ferrari launch inquest after Charles Leclerc horror show in Japanese GP qualifying

Ferrari star Leclerc will start from eighth on the grid at the 2024 Japanese GP and Vasseur is searching for answers from his driver

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Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur will sit down with his engineers to discuss the team’s poor qualifying performance at the Formula 1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix after bemoaning errors made by Charles Leclerc, before bizarrely jumping to his driver’s defence.

Leclerc will be eighth on the grid for Sunday’s race – his worst starting position since qualifying ninth for the Dutch GP last season – after he was limited to one timed lap in the Q3 shootout session.

He finished six tenths off Max Verstappen, who just pipped Sergio Perez to pole for a Red Bull 1-2, with Ferrari nowhere near challenging for the front row despite bringing upgrades to the Far East.

The Scuderia could at least celebrate having Carlos Sainz separate the two McLarens in fourth after Lando Norris impressed to secure P3. But Vasseur was more concerned about Ferrari’s absence of pace around the Suzuka circuit – particularly in Leclerc’s case.

“The mistake with Charles, if there was one, was that he jeopardised the first lap in Q1. That forced us to use a second set [of soft tyres] in Q2. So we were always a bit behind and only had one set in Q3, while our direct rivals had two attempts. However, that came from Q1, not Q3,” Vasseur told the press in Japan on Saturday.

“It’s a shame because I think we could have done better today. In all the sessions, it was Turn 17, the last part of the chicane, where we lost half the gap on Max. We have to talk about it, I still haven’t seen Charles after the session.

“We are talking about a tenth between Russell’s ninth position and Sainz’s fourth, but the details are important and we have to focus on these to understand why we lose so much time in the last sector.

“This is also in view of the race, because traction will be important. There is only one straight with DRS and we have to fix that for tomorrow.”

Leclerc gets Vasseur backing

While it appeared that Vasseur may have been unhappy with the 26-year-old’s performance, he soon jumped to the defence of Leclerc.

Frederic Vasseur during the 2024 Australian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Frederic Vasseur is behind Charles Leclerc. | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Despite starting behind his team-mate, Leclerc – who is currently second in the drivers’ championship – received backing from the Scuderia boss who insisted he is not concerned with his sudden drop in performance.

“I’m not at all [worried]. Charles was P2 [in Australia] last week and I think that 18 drivers on the grid would have expected to be P2 last week,” Vasseur told Sky Sports F1.

“Today he’s one tenth off Carlos, he knows perfectly where he needs something. For now it was more lap one, Q1 than something else. The season is long and I’m not worried at all about the situation.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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