Charles Leclerc said he was really struggling with the wet-weather tyres as he finished third at the Japanese Grand Prix to hand Max Verstappen the 2022 world championship.
A box-office start to the race saw the championship leaders go side-by-side into the first corner, but Verstappen held onto the lead around the outside and cruised to victory from there, eventually winning by nearly half a minute.
It looked like he’d have to wait until Austin to claim his second world title but a post-race penalty for Leclerc meant he slipped to third and a stipulation in the rules meant full points were awarded.
“We were very fast for four or five laps but unfortunately the race was a little bit longer than that,” Leclerc told reporters.
“The fronts were just gone after four or five laps and after that it was all about trying to survive until the end of the race.
“The end of the race was extremely difficult obviously Checo was putting quite a bit of pressure behind and I was really struggling with both my front tyres so yeah, at the end I ended up making a mistake, but we were really really struggling today.”
How Leclerc lost the title
Just 28 laps were completed of the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, meaning over 50 percent of the race distance was driven and so teams, fans and broadcasters thought 75 percent of full points would be awarded as per Article 6.5 of the F1 sporting regulations.
However, that only comes into effect if the race is stopped and cannot be resumed, meaning if the race finishes on-track then full points are awarded regardless of the race distance.
The other part of the equation was Leclerc‘s post-race penalty for running off the track, which put him behind Perez meaning Verstappen has an unassailable 113-point lead.
“I don’t have much to say, I made a mistake,” Leclerc said on his five-second penalty.
“I tried to minimise it by trying to go straight, I was not aware this was the last lap but a five-second penalty was the right thing to be honest.”
The result also moves Perez ahead in the championship with four rounds to go. But the post-race ceremonies at Suzuka were all about the new repeat-world champion, and Leclerc paid tribute to his rival in the post-race ceremonies.
“Of course, huge congratulations to Max and Red Bull,” Leclerc said. “They’ve done an incredible job this year, Max has just been incredible and it’s a title fully deserved.
“On our side we will try to push for the last four races this season to improve as a team and to hopefully put more of a challenge next year.”