From the moment the starting lights went out it took less than half a minute for Ferrari’s Styrian Grand Prix to go disastrously wrong.
Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari while making a speculative attempt to overtake team mate Sebastian Vettel on the first lap of the race. The pair made contact, leaving both SF1000s with race-ending damage.
Before the race began, Leclerc revealed he had run an “aggressive” set-up on his car during the very wet qualifying hour, expecting the race to be dry. While Vettel started on the medium compound rubber, Leclerc began the race on softs, and was no doubt eager to clear his team mate as quickly as possible.
His last-second dive down the inside of Vettel at turn two went spectacularly wrong, however. Leclerc apologised profusely for the incident after the race, but in the heat of the moment he wasn’t initially aware how he’d come to hit his team mate.
Leclerc’s car was receiving attention from Ferrari in the pits when Vettel arrived to retire his car. Yet Vettel appeared unaware that his assailant with his own team mate.
“I was taking it easy into turn three and then somebody went completely on the inside rear of myself,” he explained on the radio.
Meanwhile Ferrari were busy evaluating whether Leclerc’s car was able to carry on with extensive damage to his rear floor. Leclerc, who was initially under the mistaken impression that he’d been hit from behind in the collision, repeatedly asked the team to let him know how bad the damage was.
When they estimated he’d lost around 100 points of downforce – a very significant amount – Leclerc initially tried to continue, perhaps hoping the race would eventually see as many retirements as had occured a week earlier. The team soon decided to retire the car, however.
On a weekend when nothing went right for the team, the last thing to go wrong was the radio instruction for Leclerc to retire, which came just as he’d passed the pit lane entrance.
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Leclerc’s team radio
|Leclerc:||Check the car please.|
|To Leclerc:||Copy will do.|
|Leclerc:||I think I have to box. Someone touched me in the back.|
|To Leclerc:||OK stay positive.|
|Leclerc:||Box this lap, box this lap.|
|To Leclerc:||Safety Car deployed.|
|To Leclerc:||OK box now, box now.|
|To Leclerc:||Slow button on.|
|Leclerc:||Check the car [unclear] someone touched me quite hard in the back.|
|To Leclerc:||We are changing the front wing.|
|Leclerc:||What about the rear? It’s minus five clicks if it’s something at the rear. Or minus seven, I don’t know.|
|To Leclerc:||OK, you can go.|
|Leclerc:||Is everything fine on the rear?|
|To Leclerc:||OK track is clear, track clear. Slow button on.|
|Leclerc:||Is everything fine on the rear?|
|To Leclerc:||So we see some damage on the floor.|
|Leclerc:||Big damage, no?|
|To Leclerc:||Stay on the right after turn three.|
|Leclerc:||Ah no guys there’s something wrong, no? Can you please tell me? Is it big damage, small damage? What is it?|
|To Leclerc:||We still don’t know. We saw some damage on the left-rear of the floor, was what we saw.|
|Leclerc:||It really feels like huge damage. The car’s very difficult to drive. I’ve closed everything I have here, the diffs and things like this and I’ll try to continue but…|
|To Leclerc:||Copy, understood. BB plus two.|
|To Leclerc:||Brake shape plus one.|
|Leclerc:||Ah, even in fourth gear I’m struggling.|
|To Leclerc:||Copy, understood. I will come back to you as soon as possible.|
|Leclerc:||Is the suspension fine?|
|To Leclerc:||We’ll come back to you.|
|To Leclerc:||So Charles we are missing downforce on the rear, we have seen that.|
|Leclerc:||How many points?|
|To Leclerc:||I will come back to you on that.|
|To Leclerc:||Around 100.|
|Leclerc:||I want to finish this race. I mean, you never know. Let’s try at least. I’ll go slow. I’m not going to try to overtake with 100 points lacking. But… I don’t know.|
|To Leclerc:||Copy. We are checking everything. I will come back to you as soon as possible.|
|To Leclerc:||Copy, box now, bow, and we’ll retire the car.|
|Leclerc:||Leclerc has already passed the pit lane entrance
Ah… yeah, well, you told me too late.
|To Leclerc:||Turn three
So box this lap, box.
|To Leclerc:||Turn eight
Charles box now. box, we’ll retire the car.
|To Leclerc:||And P zero, please.|
Vettel’s team radio
|Vettel:||OK I have damage. Somebody took off my rear wing.|
|To Vettel:||OK, box.|
|Vettel:||Copy, box, I don’t know who that was, box box.|
|To Vettel:||Safety Car, Safety Car and box.|
|Vettel:||Yeah I’m coming in. I’ll slow down.|
|To Vettel:||We are retiring the car.|
|Vettel:||Is that for sure?|
|Vettel:||Yeah it’s probably for sure.|
|To Vettel:||It’s for sure, yeah, too many damages I’m afraid.|
|Vettel:||I don’t know what that was. I was taking it easy into turn three and then somebody went completely on the inside rear of myself. Ah…|
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2020 F1 season