Charles Leclerc believes his best chance to snatch victory back from Max Verstappen in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was thwarted by late yellow flags.
Verstappen had been attacking Leclerc for a number of laps and finally found a way past with four laps to go, but the Ferrari had the pace to stay close and was within DRS range for the final two laps. However, a collision between Alex Albon and Lance Stroll saw DRS disabled on the main straight when Leclerc was 0.7s adrift and he feels he could have attacked into Turn 1 on the penultimate lap without that interruption.
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“I definitely enjoyed the fight, it’s obviously disappointing to lose the win so late in the race but it was a fun fight,” Leclerc said. “It was very difficult as we had two cars that were in a very different place — I was very strong in the first sector, all the corners, and basically much less strong in the straights.
“It was very tricky. I tried to have the DRS in the last corner — it worked twice but didn’t the last time. Then we had the yellow flag, the one where I could have had a chance to be alongside into Turn 1, I had no DRS there, a bit of a shame, but it’s part of the game. We’ll try again next race.”
Part of the battle saw Verstappen overtake Leclerc into the final corner but lose the lead on the pit straight, leading to an unusual moment a lap later when both drivers braked hard to not be first across the DRS detection point approaching the final turn. Leclerc felt he had his tactics right initially but eventually couldn’t keep Verstappen at bay.
“I knew that the strength of Max and the Red Bull in general was the straight line speed, so I knew if I was leaving Max with the DRS behind for the main straight I would basically be overtaken very easily. I just wanted that DRS.
“So on the first lap I braked very early and got the DRS and managed to overtake back on the run to Turn 1; then on the second one obviously Max knew I was going to do that, so we both braked quite early but I still managed to stay in front at the end, and the third time didn’t work out for me. I tried to do the best I could to keep the position but it wasn’t enough.”