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Leclerc’s Call to Arms: Ferrari’s Battle Against McLaren’s Momentum in Shanghai

The writing was on the wall in Qualifying when both McLarens finished ahead of the Ferraris, and yet the McLarens weren’t even in the Top 3.

Typically, Charles is the “Qualifier” to be feared, a shoe-in for a top position on the grid. If not on pole, we expect to see Charles on the grid at the start, but often he captures pole. China is the third Grand Prix in a row that Charles has not dominated in Qualifying and Verstappen is stealing his Qualifying crown. 

Lando Norris on the other hand is having a better experience with his McLaren. He was 5th to Charles 4th in Tokyo but beat Ferrari there in Qualifying. Yet Landon still fears the Prancing Horse duo of Leclerc and Sainz as he was sure that the Ferraris would both pass him in Shanghai. Indeed, Norris, starting in fourth with the two Ferraris behind him, had been convinced he would fall prey to the Scuderia’s red aces. 
Not so, we’ll see why.

Verstappen Dominant

So, in this riveting Chinese Grand Prix marred by thrills and spills, it was Max Verstappen who claimed victory from pole position, deftly navigating through a minefield of incidents and daring overtakes. His triumph marked the fourth win out of five races this season, cementing his dominance in the championship race.

Verstappen orchestrated the race with precision, maintaining composure amidst chaos as the Shanghai International Circuit witnessed a flurry of strategic maneuvers and unexpected twists. With Virtual Safety Car and two full Safety Car interventions punctuating the race, Verstappen’s was steady at the helm ensuring he stayed ahead of the pack.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s Lando Norris emerged as a surprise contender, executing a shrewd pit stop strategy alongside Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Seizing the opportunity presented by the Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car phases, Norris capitalized on his track position to leapfrog his way to second place, a position he fiercely defended until the checkered flag. Norris and McLaren confounded expectations, including their own, with a stunning performance.

Despite late-race tire concerns, Leclerc and Sainz clinched commendable fourth and fifth place finishes respectively. But the question now is whether McLaren have stolen a march on Ferrari and are a new force to be feared.

Leclerc Has a New Strong Competitor in McLaren

Charles Leclerc reportedly expressed his astonishment at Ferrari’s unexpected struggle with the hard compound tire during the Chinese Grand Prix, resulting in a P4 and P5 finish for the team. Despite a challenging start that saw both Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz slip to the tail-end of the top 10, they fought their way back into contention, only to face further setbacks as the race progressed.

Opting for a medium-to-hard one-stop strategy, Ferrari found themselves at odds with McLaren’s impressive performance on the hard tire. The intervention of multiple safety car periods further complicated matters, levelling the playing field and thwarting Ferrari’s initial tire management advantage.

Reflecting on the race, Leclerc reportedly admitted surprise at McLaren’s strong pace relative to Ferrari, especially on the hard tire. Sainz echoed the sentiment, acknowledging McLaren’s superior performance throughout the weekend and the challenges Ferrari faced from the start being overtaken rapidly on Lap 1. 

So despite their efforts, Ferrari could only muster a P4 and P5 finish, with Sainz conceding that P5 was the best they could achieve given the circumstances. The result leaves Ferrari trailing Red Bull by 44 points in the constructors’ standings, highlighting the uphill battle they face in the championship race. 

Leclerc lies third in the Driver Standings, 9 points off Perez and a whopping 34 points behind leader Verstappen.

Race Results 

1: Max Verstappen; Red Bull
2: Lando Norris; McLaren 
3: Sergio Perez; Red Bull 
4: Charles Leclerc; Ferrari 
5: Carlos Sainz; Ferrari 

Next up: Miami 

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