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How the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix epitomised the relentlessness of Charles Leclerc

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There are popular racing teams. There are legendary racing teams and then, there’s a certain Ferrari. It’s a symbol of speed and when things go well on the race track, then most certainly, it becomes a definition of perpetuity. 

But whether you’re a die hard Tifosi or a Formula 1 newcomer whose first impressions on the sport were formed basis Netlix’s Drive To Survive, you’d most certainly love Ferrari to compete with a sense of consistency. 

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Which is precisely what Charles Leclerc epitomised at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix. 

A strong finish at Japan

Even as current talks rest with the dashing and in-form Carlos Sainz -and rightly so-, eventually the main discussion point finds  itself inching toward a certain Charles Leclerc. 

In a sense, the dynamic and talented driver finds a bigger discussion base around the world, perhaps even more prominently than the infallible Sir Lewis Hamilton, his future teammate (2025 FIA F1 championship). 

And where it came to the recent Suzuka-bound contest, despite not finishing on the podium Charles Leclerc proved himself to be worth his salt. 

In so doing, he justified the reason why hype and popularity court him more often than controversy or criticism does. 

How Leclerc worked out what could’ve been a complicated Japan GP

Leclerc began his race from eighth on the grid. Having struggled in qualifying for the most of Saturday plausibly owing to having not done sufficient practice runs to gain that required momentum, the best position that the Ferrari driver could manage was a lowly eighth. But there was deeper trouble than what was evident with his grid slot. 

Charles Leclerc was sandwiched between the two Mercedes machines with Lewis Hamilton, a

five-time winner at Japan tucked ahead in seventh and the aggressive overtaker George Russell positioned on ninth. 

What might Leclerc do during the race and where might he possibly end up formed a large part of Ferrari’s soul searching query prior to the race. 

“As I said yesterday, I was happy with the lap but I just didn’t have enough grip available. This is mostly coming from the track time to get the tyres in the right window and from that moment it puts us in a very difficult situation for the rest of the weekend because starting eighth you cannot do much more,” he would explain post completion of a hard fought qualifying round at Suzuka.  

Longer stint, greater concentration

Image Source – F1 Chronicle

Nevertheless, even as things didn’t appear to be heading the desired way, it seemed, Leclerc had the answers as one later discovered during the race. 

Driving a brilliant first stint on the hard tires, Leclerc stayed out of the pits for as long as 27 consecutive laps. 

Was that unforeseen, unpredictable even? It was anyone’s call. 

On a track that was sensitive to power units, Leclerc changed gears having been 

a driver prepared for a long battle to a putti by up a defensive masterclass post his first stop. 

This, eventually, would be the only time he’d ever pit in the 53-lap contest. 

The essential but supremely ‘late’ pit stop

After his switch to mediums, Leclerc looked after his tyres really well. He may not have had the sufficient race pace especially when compared to his brilliant teammate Carlos Sainz, but he had plans for the fast approaching Lando Norris. 

In defying the young and eager Briton, who had finished second at the last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc channelised the inner fighter within. 

He wasn’t going to give up. While he was away from the path of the two raging Red Bulls, despite not having fresher tyres towards the end, the contest with the McLaren was immense and heartening. 

The longer stint that eventually worked well against McLaren enabled the driver of SF-24# 16 to stay in the hunt for a top five finish. 

This, interestingly, came at a time where both McLaren drivers as also the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, the latter, a legend, were struggling with degradation. 

Image Source– screengrab from FanCode

Eventually, told on the team radio to not waste time against a stronger looking Sainz, Leclerc didn’t put up much of a fight against his Spanish teammate; with seven laps remaining, Charles would be overtaken by Carlos. 

Determination personified

In such time, the Monegasque had been holding onto a P3, which as a race finish, looked ideal but a distant reality. 

Eventually, Leclerc brought home 12 vital points courtesy a very respectable and ardently earned P4. 

What’s interesting is to reflect on whether he’d himself imagined reaching as high as fourth having begun the Japanese Grand Prix, lest it is forgotten, from down in eighth? 

For his efforts, he was adjudged the “Driver Of The Day” at the Japanese Grand Prix of 2024  

“We did an amazing tyre strategy, amazing tyre management and amazing pace but it’s just not enough when you’re starting eighth.

“It’s not very often in my career that I had to focus on qualifying days because this normally is one of my strengths,” exclaimed a satisfied Charles Leclerc who truly gave his everything on the day where it mattered at Suzuka. 

From four races so far, Leclerc has collected two respectable podiums and is helping Ferrari keep up its fight to Red Bull for track supremacy. 

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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