Leclerc: Italian GP’s fate was sealed for ‘frustrating’ safety car finish


The Ferrari driver had taken the lead from pole position in the opening stages of Monza, but chose to change tires early when a virtual safety car period was prompted by the retirement of Sebastian Vettel.

That move put him on an alternate two-stop strategy, with the extra stop and lack of pace compared to eventual winner Max Verstappen leaving him adrift as the laps counted down.

But the opportunity opened up for a potential showdown with Verstappen, as Daniel Ricciardo’s late retirement with an engine problem brought the safety car to the fore.

However, delays in retrieving the affected McLaren, as well as the safety car taking several laps to retrieve race leader Verstappen, caused laps to run out to allow for a restart.

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Following protocols ignored in Abu Dhabi last year that the race can only be restarted one lap after the cars have been let go, there was no room for a final lap fight once the cars were in order.

Much to the chagrin of local Ferrari fans, who booed the cars as they took the checkered flag, Verstappen came home unchallenged for his first win over Monza.

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Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo By: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Looking back at the end of the race, Leclerc admitted he was eager for the race to resume, but said his defeat to Verstappen had been set in stone much earlier.

“I mean, the ending was frustrating,” he said. “I wish we could have raced, but unfortunately we finished second in that place because of what happened before. So it’s a shame.

“But in general I gave everything for P2 today. I wish I could have won for the great tifosi we have here, but I just couldn’t today. ”

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Leclerc said he and Ferrari went for the early virtual safety car stop to make sure to cover the cars behind it, but of course they had to dig deeper into whether it was the right choice or not.

“We didn’t know what they were going to do behind that, so we made that choice,” he explained.

Asked if he was happy with the decision, he said: “Well, of course we finished in P2, so I’m not very happy with the race. But yes, we will work on that.”