Charles Leclerc has explained why he didn’t risk overtaking Max Verstappen when the leader went off ahead of the final restart at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Verstappen lost the rear when warming his tires at the penultimate corner on Sunday, sliding onto the grass but managing to catch the slide and rejoin the track. Leclerc was behind him in second place but opted to slow down and wait for Verstappen to rejoin rather than take the lead, and he says he felt there wasn’t a point he’d have legally been allowed to overtake the Red Bull.
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“I considered it at one point but at the same time I backed off,” Leclerc said. “I think looking back at it, it was the right choice because he always had one wheel on the track. I backed off and because he didn’t completely spin, obviously as we’ve seen. I thought about it but it was too late as he was already back in front.”
Lando Norris was directly behind Leclerc at the time and felt the Ferrari driver would have been within his rights to make a move despite it still being under Safety Car conditions.
“I had a great view of it,” Norris said. “Quite funny actually. I think Charles could have gone past him, in my opinion. At that stage, Max was out of control and going left and Charles, kind of, just hit the brakes and slowed down and stopped. At some point, he has to go past Max because he was facing the barrier for a lot of the corner.
“I don’t know. We have to maybe ask the guys in charge what the exact ruling is for going off, as off-track, all four wheels off the track and example of (Saturday) – but at the same time Max was going very slow, so it was like… Charles could have driven past him at the point. I’m not sure. I think if I was in P2, I would have gone for it, because you have a chance at winning then. It’s a risk worth it.”
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Leclerc went on to finish fourth after losing out to Norris immediately after crossing the line to restart the race, and says he was actually left on the back foot by another Verstappen error.
“I think there was a succession of things,” said Leclerc. “Firstly, I got quite surprised by his first spin but that was not the reason of the bad start after that. Second, I had no radio at that point. I mean, I didn’t have any radio. We had a radio problem for a few seconds, so I was also checking whether I had everything at the right place in terms of buttons.
“But then I think the one that played the biggest part was that just before the actual restart (Verstappen) had a small snap and I expected him just after the small snap to wait before going again, but he actually went after the small snap and I was surprised there. It wasn’t a great restart from my side.”