Charles Leclerc was disappointed to have lost a race he led for most of its laps, but the Ferrari charger still thoroughly enjoyed his thrilling scrap with Saudi Arabian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen.
Leclerc took command of the race when early leader and poleman Sergio Perez pitted on lap 15 only for the Mexican to lose a lap later when a safety car delivered quasi free pitstops to the Monegasque and his Red Bull teammate.
The Ferrari drive was able to keep Verstappen at bay until a virtual safety car was activated with 12 laps to go when Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren and Fernando Alonso’s Alpine were halted in the pitlane.
That allowed Verstappen to position himself in the wake of his rival on the restart, after which the drivers engaged in a thrilling strategic DRS game of cat and mouse that last for the better part of eight laps and where the Dutchman had the last word.
“It was [smart racing], but it wasn’t enough today,” said Leclerc right after the race. “But my god, I really enjoyed that race!
“We are on a street track and we’ve been pushing like I’ve rarely pushed before, to the absolute limit.
“We took risks at the end, so there is respect, but I’m a bit disappointed.”
- Report: Verstappen snatches late win from Leclerc in Saudi Arabian GP
Leclerc acknowledged that the straight-line speed of Red Bull’s RB18 had delivered a crucial edge to Verstappen, as he could not make up in the corners his Ferrari’s deficit on the straights.
“It’s hard racing, but fair – every race it should be like this!” he said. “I’m, of course, disappointed. I wanted to win today.
“I think we had two very different configurations between Max, Checo [Perez] and both the Ferraris.
“We were quite quick in the corners, but slow on the straights, so it was extremely difficult for me to cover Max on the straights. But he did a great job and it was a fun race.”
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