Charles Leclerc believed he was on course for a podium at the 2023 Japanese GP as he thought he saw Max Verstappen, the eventual race winner, retire.
Leclerc managed to take a fourth place finish as he overtook the Mercedes of George Russell in the closing stages of the race with a spectacular wheel-to-wheel move on the outside around Turn 1.
However, speaking to media after the race the Monegasque revealed that he was convinced he had a podium finish in the bag after becoming confused over whether Verstappen was still in the race.
“I didn’t even follow what Max did because I thought I saw him stop at the safety car, or after the safety car, I don’t know what happened there, but I thought he was out of the race then,” he said.
“So I thought I was on for a podium until the the last lap when I looked up and saw I was P4.”
Leclerc explained that he believed he had saw Verstappen going slow on the television screens at the track at one point, which is what led to his unfortunate mix up.
“He slowed down at one point no? On the exit of Turn 14?. I think it was at the VSC when he stopped at the left and we overtook him,” the Monegasque said, as reporters cleared up the confusion.
Best result possible
Leclerc had to fight for his fourth place finish, with the overtakes paired with delicate tyre management on a Ferrari car which has proved to be brutal on its tyre management at a circuit known for high degradation.
But he said that the team’s result was the best they could have hoped for given the relative pace of Red Bull and McLaren.
“They were really strong, Max we of course expected to be strong, and Checo as well, I don’t know what happened to him, and the McLarens too, so there were no surprises, that was the maximum we could do today.”