Charles Leclerc described his late race battle for victory with Max Verstappen in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as ‘hard but fair racing’.
In the final ten laps of the race, Leclerc and Verstappen engaged in a back-and-forth fight over the lead of the race, both attempting to strategically exploit the DRS rules to capture the race lead. Eventually Verstappen took the lead and remained ahead of the Ferrari driver, taking the chequered flag just half a second ahead.
“Oh my God, I really enjoyed that race,” said Leclerc. “Again, it’s hard racing but fair and every race should be like this.”
Leclerc admitted that he was “of course disappointed” to have missed out on a second consecutive victory, but believed that Ferrari’s higher downforce set-up may have ultimately proved the difference.
“We had two very different configurations, with Max and Checo and both the Ferraris,” Leclerc explained. “We were quite quick in the corners but quite slow in the straight because we put more downforce, so it was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straight. But it’s like this. He did a great job and it was a fun race.”
Immediately after the race, Leclerc was seen giving Verstappen a thumbs-up hand gesture of congratulations on the cooldown lap. He said that there was mutual respect between the two drivers.
“It’s always been there, especially when you finish a race like this,” he explained. “Honestly, we are on a street track, we have been pushing like I’ve rarely pushed before, to the absolute limit and we took risks at the end. So of course there is respect and I’m a little bit disappointed.”
Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate, Carlos Sainz Jnr, said he felt he had made progress since last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix despite being beaten by Red Bull.
“The Red Bulls were super quick in the last ten laps after the tyres cooled down on the Safety Car, and the Virtual [Safety Car],” said Sainz.
“They were flying and they were putting pressure on us. For me, this race was a bit of progress from Bahrain, I think I managed to find a bit more rhythm with the car, still some tenths to find but I think I will end up getting there.”
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2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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