Suzuka, Japan was abuzz with action as Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc found himself in a state of confusion which he only clarified post his fourth-place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix. Leclerc was under the impression that he had surpassed the race-winner Max Verstappen, while in reality, it was Sergio Perez‘s retiring Red Bull that he passed.
The Ferrari driver concluded the high-adrenaline Japanese race about seven seconds adrift of McLaren‘s Oscar Piastri, who claimed the third podium position. Leclerc held on to his mistaken belief that he was heading for the podium until the concluding lap of the thrilling Grand Prix.
Post race, the puzzled Leclerc addressed the media. The confusion unfolded around the 14th lap when Leclerc, still assuming he had overtaken Verstappen, had actually only passed Perez. The Red Bull vehicle of Perez took a pit-stop after a collision-induced retirement in the opening lap with Lewis Hamilton. Perez was, however, later seen returning to the race temporarily to serve a penalty.
Focusing more on his race strategy, Leclerc said, “I saw Max stopping at the Virtual Safety Car or after the Safety Car, I don’t know what happened there, and I thought he wasn’t in the race anymore.” He acknowledged his confusion further, assuming he was headed for the podium until he spotted the leader board stating he was in the fourth position on the final lap.
Touching on the race performance of the other drivers, Leclerc added, “Max of course, we expected him to be strong. We expected Checo (Perez) also, but I don’t know what happened for him and the two McLarens, too.”
On being queried about spotting Verstappen slow down on the big screens around the track, Leclerc replied, “No, he slowed down at one point no? Exit of turn 14. I think it was the VSC, he basically stopped on the left and we all overtook him.”
The Ferrari star’s understanding of the race finally came to light when it was clarified to him that he had actually passed Perez, not Verstappen, during lap 14. “Oh right okay. That’s what it was. I thought Max was out of the race at that moment it was just confusing for me,” explained a relieved Leclerc.