Charles Leclerc has admitted he has mixed emotions after crossing the line for a dramatic late second place at the Las Vegas GP despite qualifying on pole and leading for large portions of the race.
Leclerc was fancied for a potential victory on F1‘s return to Sin City, but had to settle for second after Max Verstappen rallied from a five-second penalty for an illegal overtake on the Ferrari off the line at Turn 1 and front wing damage to take his 18th win of the season.
At one point it looked as if Leclerc would have to settle for the final podium spot after Sergio Perez also got passed him to set up a Red Bull 1-2, but the Monegasque pulled off a daring overtake on the final lap to take second and confine Perez to third.
“Oh, mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m extremely happy with today’s performance. I think we didn’t leave anything on the table and until the very last corner of the last lap I gave it all and managed to get that second place,” Leclerc said.
“On the other hand, obviously disappointed because I really believed that without the safety car the win was ours because we had a really good first stint on the medium and I think, we had five laps newer hards than Max and had a good four or five laps in order to bring them into temperature, and we have done a really good job on that.
“So I was really confident that the win was ours. Then there was unfortunately the safety car. Max and Checo was stopped and I stayed on my five laps used hards, which is not too much, five laps.
“But the problem is that then when you cool them down during the safety car to restart the use tyre is incredibly difficult with those temperatures.
“And then we lost, we lost the race. But on the other hand, as Max said, I think that as part of the race was extremely fun. And that gave me a lot of adrenaline inside the car. And I really enjoyed it.”
That late safety car ultimately proved costly, with Leclerc staying out on his used hards while both Red Bulls, pitted, but the Ferrari driver said while he may have done things differently, the call wasn’t as clear cut in real time.
“It’s always easy to say I had only done five laps. On the other hand, I do know what Max and Checo will do behind me. And they wouldn’t have stopped them being behind two Red Bulls would have been difficult to pass them,” Leclerc said.
“So yeah. Now I would have stopped. But now I know what they had done. So it’s too easy to say.”