Max Verstappen suggested that Charles Leclerc’s error during the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday is painful, claiming the Monegasque already knows that.
Verstappen won the race at Imola in dominant fashion, while a late-race error saw his Ferrari rival finish sixth, after what seemed to be a secured third place finish.
The reigning Formula 1 World Champion defended Leclerc’s error, suggesting that these things happen, while speaking to the media after the race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo & Dino Ferrari.
“It’s easily done,” he said. “Of course, he was pushing hard to try and fight Checo (Perez). It is painful, but I think he knows that himself. He doesn’t need to hear that from anyone in here.
“It’s still such a long championship, you can still gain a lot of points,” Verstappen added. “It’s not great, but you can’t change it now and he doesn’t do it on purpose.”
Leclerc’s crash came after a late, second pitstop from Ferrari, that put him on new Soft tyres, after they realized there was no chance of catching the leading Red Bulls with a conventional strategy.
Verstappen was asked about his reaction to what the Ferrari did, and he laughingly answered: “I just heard that they were boxing, so I was like, ‘Can I have some new tyres as well, please?’.
“But it was already all planned. If they’re boxing anyway, I have the chance to do as well, right? Because I was up front.
“It’s always nicer to drive on newer tyres than the old ones we had. I could have gone to the end, but it’s just not as nice to go to the end,” the Dutchman reflected.
Leclerc adamant he was not under pressure
It was an important weekend for Ferrari who for the first time in a while, were going racing on their own turf with a competitive car, the F1-75, which suggested the team and its drivers might be under pressure, but Leclerc denied that pressure played a role in his error.
“No, there wasn’t” he claimed. “That’s what I think at least. Obviously, we’ve had pressure, not only today, but for the whole weekend. I don’t think I’ve done many mistakes before today.
“It was the mistake that cost me a lot and I’ll learn from it. But no, on my side there was no particular added pressure whatsoever,” the four-time race winner insisted.
“Maybe this one is a bit different,” he mused. “I mean, it’s one of those mistakes where it’s just the mental approach that you had at that particular moment of the race, but I’ve always been strong at knowing exactly which particular feeling I felt at that moment of the race and knowing how to correct it.
“Again, it’s a mistake, but I’ll learn from it and won’t do it again,” a defiant Leclerc pointed out. “And with the mistake, actually, I’ve only lost seven points to what I could have scored.
“But it’s seven points that could be valuable at the end of the season,” he admitted, clearly thinking about the long term development of this year’s Title fight.
“Every point counts when you’re fighting for the title, so it won’t happen again,” the 24-year-old assured.
Leclerc still leads the Drivers’ Championship with 86 points, but Verstappen is now second, 27 points behind him, the gap being 46 points between the pair before the race weekend at Imola.