Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has confirmed that his and the team’s relative lack of pace on hard tyres during the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, April 21, came as a ‘big surprise’, having fallen just short of the podium with a fourth place finish at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Leclerc and his team mate, Carlos Sainz initially fell back to the tail-end of the top ten, after George Russell and Niko Hulkenberg managed to slip by in their respective Mercedes and Haas cars on the opening lap. A suddenly more challenging race ensued for the Scuderia duo, as they attempted to pull off a one stop tyre strategy while fighting their way back up the field.

Also making it a one stop race, McLaren’s Lando Norris made the most of a Virtual Safety Car and two full Safety Car periods to clear the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, in order to take second place at the chequered flag ahead of the Mexican driver in third.

Meanwhile, Leclerc felt that the VSC and Safety Car periods hindered Ferrari’s efforts as the Monegasque and Sainz wound up fourth and fifth following particularly long stints on hard tyres, which proved to be less than ideal on the SF-24 car.

Speaking after the race, Leclerc commented; “I think as a team we were quite confident, that our race pace was very strong. However, we didn’t drive on the hard (throughout the weekend) until now, and once we put the hard on we were slower than what we expected, so that was a big surprise.”

The Monegasque driver added that “having said that, I think we have also been put on the back foot with the Safety Car, because that put us in the same strategy as everybody and until that moment I was doing a really, really good job with the tyres, and I was very confident that we could do a great race. After that it was much more difficult.”

The victor of the Chinese GP does not come as a big surprise, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen climbing to the top of the podium to the sound of the Dutch anthem once more. With this win, Red Bull stand 44 points ahead of the Scuderia in second place in the constructor’s standings.

As for the drivers standings, Leclerc occupies third place behind the Red Bull pair. See the current drivers standings below:

Next up is the Miami GP on Sunday, May 5.

Featured image courtesy of @ScuderiaFerrari on X: Charles Leclerc behind the wheel of the SF-24 at the Shanghai International Circuit