Leclerc calls for 'tear-offs' ruling as Ferrari bid to bounce back

·3-min read

Charles Leclerc on Thursday called for a clear ruling to prevent drivers throwing visor 'tear-offs' on the track during races, after his hopes of success in Belgium were ruined by a Max Verstappen discard.

Speaking to reporters ahead of this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix, the second race in a trio of events that wind up the European part of this year's championship, the Ferrari driver made clear he did not blame his rival.

Last weekend, a tear-off dropped by Red Bull's world champion and runaway series leader ended up making its way into a brake duct of the Ferrari, causing the brakes to overheat.

That, in turn, led to an unscheduled early pit stop that wrecked Leclerc's hopes of a desperately-needed victory.

Verstappen, from 14th on the grid, won convincingly to lead his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 93 points in the championship and Leclerc by 98.

"Obviously, I am not angry with Max, not at all," stressed the 24-year-old Monegasque driver.

"It's clearly not the fault of the drivers... But, maybe, we can look at something to find a way to keep these tear-offs somewhere in the car."

Several drivers removed tear-offs on the opening lap last Sunday due to fluids and dusty materials being thrown up from the asphalt following collisions, notably that of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

In addition to the brakes problem it caused, Verstappen's tear-off also neutralised a sensor in Leclerc's car which led to him breaking the pit-lane speed limit and being given a five-second penalty that dropped him from fifth to sixth.

Leclerc added: "It would be good to find a solution because, in that particular situation, I think somebody was losing oil or something and I could not see anything with my visor.

"It was the same for all the drivers in front of me –- they couldn't see through their visors.

"The first opportunity we had to take off the tear-off was in this straight so I found myself with tear-offs flying all over the place and, in that case, you cannot do much as a driver."

Tear-offs "may not be thrown unnecessarily onto the track or the pit lane", but it has not been enforced despite a focus on the rule in 2016.

"I guess there were reasons why this rule was (not enforced), which I'm not aware of, but maybe there were other solutions. I don’t know."

- 'A lot of points' -

Leclerc maintained a glimmer of optimism about his title bid, but took a realistic view.

"I don't know how many points there are between Max and I," he said. "I stopped counting, but it's a lot of points.

"Now, we will take it race by race, see what's possible and if there's a good surprise at the end of the year –- good!"

Referring to the constructors' championship, he added: "There is still plenty to fight for and also for second in the championship. So, in general, I will push to the end."

His team-mate Carlos Sainz, who finished third last Sunday, was more bullish about his and Ferrari's prospects.

"Spa was a great example of how an off weekend can change the perception so much in F1," he said. "I don't think we are as bad as it seems and I am sure we can be back on form and fight again to win.

"For sure, Red Bull have raised the bar a bit, race by race, but it doesn't seem too long ago we outraced them by quite a big margin in Austria."

str/jc