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In brief

Formula 1: Charles Leclerc 4th at 2024 Chinese Grand Prix

Leclerc-4th-GP-China-2024
Charles Leclerc finished fourth at the 2024 China Grand Prix (Photo © Scuderia Ferrari)

We take a look at what was a good Grand Prix for the Monegasque, despite a shaky start.

On Sunday 21 April, Formula 1 welcomed back the Chinese Grand Prix after a 5-year absence due to a succession of health crises in the country.

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The qualifying sessions and sprint races on Friday and Saturday were pretty hectic, resulting in a 6th place on the starting grid for Leclerc. The Monegasque lacked pace in qualifying against Fernando Alonso and the McLarens who were on top form!

A start that cost Leclerc dearly

Like most of the other drivers, Leclerc started the race on medium tyres. Straight off the grid he dropped back two places because his team-mate, Carlos Sainz, got in his way on the first bend. Russell and Hulkenberg took advantage of that to overtake the two Ferraris. Leclerc was now 8th.

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By the end of the first lap,  the two Ferraris had already caught up with Hulkenberg and moved up a place. Three laps later, Leclerc was on Russell’s tail and tried to overtake at the first bend. He eventually managed it and regained the 6th place he had started out with.

Leclerc showed excellent pace at the start of the race, clearly faster than any of his rivals ahead of him. On lap 11, the Monegasque had Piastri’s McLaren and Alonso’s Aston Martin in his sights. First he overtook Piastri thanks to excellent slipstreaming on the straight, then Alonso, who chose to pit for a tyre change. Leclerc was now in 4th at the start of the 12th lap.

A DNF that suited Leclerc

On lap 21, Bottas was forced to retire due to engine failure and the virtual safety car was deployed. Slowing down most of the cars, this came at just the right time for Charles Leclerc, who took the opportunity of a less penalising pit stop to change his worn tyres.

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He then put on “hard” tyres, which wear less quickly than “medium” tyres, so he would be able to finish the Grand Prix without changing them again.

On lap 23 the safety car was back out, forcing all the cars to stay behind it and enabling everyone to stop in the pits to change their tyres. Leclerc’s foresight enabled him to move ahead of Perez in the Red Bull, who had held off changing his tyres, and into a provisional podium slot.

Another missed podium for Leclerc

The safety car exited the track and the race resumed at a normal pace from the 32nd lap, but there was a gap between the Monegasque and the leading duo. As a result, Leclerc was forced to slug it out with Perez for 3rd place, but was eventually caught and overtaken by the Mexican on lap 39. Perez, driving a more powerful Red Bull than the Ferrari, was able to overtake him without difficulty.

From then on, the Monegasque found himself in “No Man’s Land”, missing out on the podium by one place. Despite his start being hindered by his team-mate, Charles Leclerc’s maturity as a driver showed, with the timing of his tyre change improving his position and gaining precious points.

Leclerc therefore consolidated his 3rd place in the drivers’ championship, behind Perez and Verstappen, and Ferrari its 2nd place in the constructors’ championship, behind Red Bull.