Leclerc: We were very fast in the first four or five laps, but unfortunately the race was a bit longer

Charles Leclerc, photo Ferrari

Charles Leclerc has officially dropped out of contention for this year’s title. The Ferrari driver finished third in the race for The Grand Prix of Japan. The Monegasque had no answer to the pace of winner Max Verstappen. The Dutchman did perfectly on the flooded Suzuka track and won a second consecutive world title.

Leclerc was moving into second position before being overtaken by Perez in the closing stages of the shortened race. The Ferrari driver defended very well against the attacks of the faster Mexican despite his worn tyres. The 25-year-old racer could barely keep his car on the slippery track. On the last lap he made a mistake and went straight through the chicane.

Immediately after the end of the race, Leclerc had an extra five seconds added to his time. This meant losing second place in the race, allowing Verstappen to defend his trophy.

“We were very fast in the first four or five laps, but unfortunately the race was a bit longer,” shared Leclerc.

“The front tires just ‘disappeared’ after four or five laps. Then it all came down to surviving until the end of the race. To be honest, we really struggled today.”

“The situation was similar to the one in the last race. We were strong again in the warm-up of the tires but after three, four laps we just destroy them,” explained the Ferrari driver.

“The end of the race was extremely difficult. Obviously Cecco was putting quite a bit of pressure on the back and I was really struggling with my two front tyres. I ended up making a mistake at the chicane that cost me dearly.”

Leclerc agrees with the punishment imposed on him by the stewards in Japan.

“I didn’t know it was the last lap. To be honest, the five-second penalty was right.”

The Ferrari driver congratulated Verstappen on the occasion of defending the world championship.

“Huge congratulations to Max on his second world title. I think Max’s success this year was only a matter of time. We expected him to win the title ahead of schedule.”

“Our goal remains unchanged. We have to use these last races to become a better team and hopefully next year we can challenge Red Bull a bit more,” added Charles Leclerc.

The other Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz crashed and ended his participation in the Japanese Grand Prix on the first lap.

“Difficult and disappointing Sunday. Until the start of the race, the choice between intermediate tires and those for a wetter track was very close. To be fair, with both blends visibility would have been nil, which was the biggest limitation. I tried to get out of Perez’s jet and ended up in a big puddle. Then I aquaplaned and there was nothing I could do to hold the car,” Sainz said.

“At that point, my only concern was not getting hit. I was in a dangerous position in the middle of the track and I knew the other drivers couldn’t see me. Fortunately for everyone, nothing worse happened today. Now we’re going to readjust and get back to working on the US race. Finally, congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull for the championship,” added the Ferrari driver.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was extremely disappointed with the way the Suzuka race had developed, as well as the the stewards’ quick decision to penalize Leclerc.

“Firstly, congratulations to Max on his second world title in what has been a great season for him. He really deserves it. From our side, the result of this shortened race is quite disappointing, especially for Carlos Sainz, who had to retire on the first lap in really difficult conditions.”

“All in all, Charles Leclerc had a good race. Unfortunately, he had problems with tire wear in the interlude. He then decided to push really hard in the first few laps after his pit stop. We now turn our attention to the last four races. We are ready to fight in two weeks in Austin,” said the Ferrari boss.

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