Charles Leclerc admits he was surprised to catch Valtteri Bottas so quickly at the end of the French Grand Prix as he fell just short of second place.
Bottas had looked comfortable in second throughout Sunday’s race as Lewis Hamilton eased to victory, with the Finn enjoying a margin of around seven seconds over Leclerc. However, the Ferrari started to close in late on and then a Virtual Safety Car period saw Leclerc able to make even more rapid progress to get within DRS range on the final lap, eventually crossing the line 0.9s adrift of the Mercedes.
“One thing for sure is that I was catching quite quickly towards the end,” Leclerc said. “The car felt very good as I paid a lot of attention to both sets of tires before and I was focusing for the end of the race to have the tires in a good shape and on that I think we did quite a good job.
“To be honest I didn’t expect to catch Valtteri and as he mentioned he had some issues with the front tires so that is why I caught quite dramatically towards the end which was a good surprise. When I saw that I pushed even more and in the end we finished and I tried to show myself on the inside of the last corner but I was too far back to try something.”
As exciting as the final lap was, for much of the race Leclerc was unable to match Mercedes’ pace and he finished nearly 20 seconds behind race winner Hamilton, but he is taking the positives from the weekend.
“On the one hand I am very happy because I have had a few difficult weekends over the last ones, especially in qualifying. I have changed the approach for here and I also changed my approach a little bit on the car setup and went in the right direction so for that I am very happy that it paid off and we have seen it in the results this weekend.
“Then on the car improvements we have brought some new parts for the car this weekend and some worked and some others have not, but clearly Mercedes are quite better for now so we need to work and catch up.”