‘We were at the limit of the regulations’ – Leclerc and Sainz reflect on their thrilling Italian GP battle
With their collective hearts in their mouths, the tifosi lining the stands at Monza watched as Ferrari team mates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battled hard in the latter stages of the Italian Grand Prix for the final podium position – with Sainz narrowly emerging victorious in the fight.
Pole-sitter Sainz had already shown his mettle with a valiant defence from the charging Max Verstappen in the early stages of the race, before the Dutch champion passed on Lap 15 of 51 before cruising to a record-breaking 10th consecutive victory.
With Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull also passing the two Ferraris after a late-race scrap, the final laps saw Leclerc trying everything to prise P3 off his team mate, with both drivers shown locking up into Turn 1 at points before Sainz eventually crossed the line just 0.184s to the good over Leclerc.
But despite the action looking intense on track, both drivers appeared to have enjoyed the tussle, with Sainz telling the media after the race: “It was tough. It was tough, hard racing. It's always been a pleasure to race Charles whenever we've had the chance. A great racer, same as Max and Checo [Perez]. We had fun out there today and I hope you guys enjoyed.”
Leclerc echoed his team mate’s sentiments when asked how he felt following the fight, saying: “To be honest, I feel good. Okay, I missed the podium, but Carlos is on it anyway, so a Ferrari is on there. I would have been disappointed if it was a boring race and we just finished fourth like we did now, but in the end, it was really fun. I enjoyed it a lot.
“I’m sure many people did not enjoy that [fight]; the guys on the pit wall perhaps had one heart attack or two, the tifosi probably also, but… for me, this is Formula 1, this is what it should be all the time.
“With Max, I’ve had these kinds of fights in the past, today was with Checo and Carlos. We, I think, were always at the limit of the regulations, whether it was defending or attacking and that’s exactly how I enjoy racing. So it was fun. Congrats to Carlos, he’s been really on it since the first lap in FP1, but I’m happy today.”
Meanwhile, Sainz declared Ferrari’s performance in front of Ferrari’s home crowd to be a marked improvement over Zandvoort a week ago – where Sainz was Ferrari’s lead scorer in P5.
“Definitely a big step forward compared to Zandvoort,” he said. “This weekend we've been best of the rest, which is a good result for the team given the circumstances.
“I think we just need to keep working on our pace, on our tyre understanding. Today it was obvious we were working the tyres a bit more and lacking a bit of pace.”