‘It was looking good for victory’ – Leclerc says he ‘cannot hide disappointment’ after falling to P4 at end of British GP
Charles Leclerc was looking well placed in the British Grand Prix to take his first victory since Melbourne back in April. That was until a late Safety Car put the advantage into the hands of Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz, who passed Leclerc before claiming his first win, as Leclerc took P4.
Starting P3 on the grid at the Lap 3 race restart – coming after an ugly pair of crashes involving Zhou Guanyu and Alex Albon on Lap 1 – Leclerc soon closed up behind Sainz, the Spaniard having taken the lead after Max Verstappen suffered damage and dropped down the order.
Leclerc was allowed past on Lap 31 of 52, but when a Safety Car was called eight laps later, Sainz, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez behind pitted for new soft tyres, as Leclerc remained on his used hards in the lead – Sainz then passing as green-flag racing resumed, leaving Leclerc to heroically try to fend off Perez and Hamilton. He was unable to, however, eventually coming home a “disappointed” P4.
“The very last part really [didn’t work out] just from the Safety Car onwards,” said Leclerc. “Before that. We were extremely quick, just the first lap [where Leclerc made contact with Perez at the restart] I thought it was over. I saw the front wing fly off and I was like, ‘that doesn’t look good.’
“But after that, we managed to find the right balance, changed a little bit the tools, changed a little bit the driving and all was looking good for a victory. But obviously with the Safety Car at the end, we decided to leave the lead car out and to pit the [trailing] car, which was myself and Carlos, and it didn’t pay off for me, so it’s a big disappointment.
“On the other hand, it’s great for Carlos, it’s a dream come true for him I’m sure, but I cannot hide my disappointment too on my own race. It’s disappointing.”
Asked, meanwhile, whether he’d be asking some searching questions in the Ferrari debrief, Leclerc said he wanted to get a sense of the full picture before he judged the team’s actions in keeping him out under the Safety Car – while adding that he’d at least enjoyed scrapping with Perez and Hamilton in the final laps.
“From the outside, until you get all the full details of one decision, it’s very difficult to comment,” said Leclerc. “Of course the frustration is high, because the end result is that my race has been very difficult after that. I was just trying to do my best to keep the cars behind but obviously on a new soft and a used hard, it’s quite a big difference.
“It was fun, the last half of the race was very, very tricky, on the limit everywhere, but that’s what I had to do to try and keep the positions, and I don’t think I could have done much better. I’ll just analyse with the team to understand if there’s anything we could have done better there.”
The result means Leclerc still holds P3 in the drivers’ standings – championship leader Verstappen finishing the race seventh after his damage – although Sainz’s victory means he now sits just 11 points behind in P4.