Mistakes decide who wins the McLaren battle for 3rd place

Since his 2-1 win at the Italian Grand Prix in September, McLaren has eased third place overall as Ferrari fought its way back.

Powered by an improved hybrid system on its powertrain, Ferrari has outperformed McLaren in each of the last three races, turning a 17.5 point deficit after Sunday’s race in Mexico into a 13.5 point lead.

Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr finished fifth and sixth, while McLaren scored just one point thanks to Lando Norris in P10 after Daniel Ricciardo lost the order after a collision with Valtteri Bottas on lap one.

Despite Ferrari’s surge in form, Leclerc believes speed might not be the deciding factor in battle.

“It depends on which team makes the fewest mistakes, because we are very, very closely coordinated,” said Leclerc.

“There may be races where we’re a little bit ahead and there are others where they’re a little bit ahead, but I don’t think that will make all the difference. I think the one who makes the next big mistakes will be to win.” and I think today was a good example of that.

“We took a great chance with the two McLarens pretty far back. We managed to get some points, which I think is an important time for third place in the championship.”

McLaren boss Andreas Seidl was of the opinion that the setback in Mexico was no reason for McLaren to overturn in the fight against Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“The most important thing is to accept that days like today can happen in racing, they are part of the sport,” said Seidl.

“At the same time, they can happen to your competitor. So there is no reason to give up this fight. It’s important to keep going. Fortunately there is another race next weekend and then we can try to fight back.

“Of course it’s disappointing for us today to get just one point, which is a huge success for the constructors’ championship.

“But that can happen again to our competitors. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure that we consistently get points, which we didn’t manage today.”

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The high altitude conditions in Mexico meant that the teams had to use their aerodynamic packages with high downforce.

Seidl added that it was “so difficult to predict” which of the remaining four tracks would be better suited for McLaren than Ferrari.

“So many factors play a role here: temperatures, choice of tires, downforce level, of course the characteristics of the route,” says Seidl.

“We have seen many times this year that it was difficult to predict and it might turn out differently than everyone expected.”

Sainz repeated Seidl’s thoughts and believed that the fight for third place would remain “very close” until the end of the season.

Sainz added: “It will be super tight until the end. You get an example today, in turn 1 Daniel was in front of us and that’s a fact.

“McLaren is in the mix every weekend. Then he obviously had an accident. Up to Turn 1, a McLaren was ahead of the two Ferraris. They have their strengths. They have got very good starts, they have a car that is very good at fast corners.

“So as soon as we go on tracks that are cheaper for them, like Monza or Sochi, where they were miles ahead, it becomes difficult to beat them.

“With this new unit we were able to keep ourselves in the mix on every track and deliver a good fight. At the moment we are doing this fight well and are finally in front in the championship.”

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