Charles Leclerc remarks that he and team-mate Carlos Sainz caused the Ferrari pit wall “one heart attack or two” during the pair’s close battle at the end of the Italian Grand Prix.
With both Ferrari drivers unable to resist the advances of either Red Bull, the fight for the final place on the podium at the team’s home race came down to Leclerc and Sainz.
Leclerc appeared to have the upper hand when he made a move into Turn 1 on Lap 47, but the Monegasque racer marginally out-braked himself, allowing Sainz to come back at him into the Variante della Roggia chicane, despite both heading off the track.
After numerous rebuffed attempts, Leclerc was informed by his race engineer he was free to race his team-mate for third, providing he kept any overtaking attempt clean.
However, the pair almost took each other out on the final lap when Leclerc’s late lunge to the inside of the first corner was met by Sainz moving across, forcing the former to lock up as he changed direction.
Despite missing out on a third Monza podium, Leclerc was enthralled by the duel with Sainz, underlining that is how racing “should be all the time.”
“To be honest, I feel good,” Leclerc said afterwards. “Okay, I missed the podium, but Carlos is on it anyway, so a Ferrari is on there. I would have been disappointed if it was a boring race and we just finished fourth like we did now, but in the end, it was really fun. I enjoyed it a lot.
“I’m sure many people did not enjoy that, the guys on the pit wall perhaps had one heart attack or two, the Tifosi probably also, but this is what… For me, this is Formula 1, this is what it should be all the time. With Max, I’ve had these kinds of fights in the past, today was with Checo and Carlos.
“We, I think, were always at the limit of the regulations, whether it was defending or attacking and that’s exactly how I enjoy racing. So it was fun. Congrats to Carlos, he’s been really on it since the first lap in FP1, but I’m happy today.”
Reflecting on their last lap encounter, Leclerc concedes he didn’t anticipate that Sainz would move across his path.
“I mean, I was around the outside, I did not expect Carlos to come back a little bit on the left, but it was part of the fight,” he explained.
“Honestly, I really enjoyed it, I cannot complain. I was fine – I mean, I think I had a smile in the car. It was exciting, tiring at the end with a lot of reaction but it was fun again.
Following an arduous weekend for Ferrari last time out at Zandvoort, Leclerc, who retired from that race, acknowledges the importance of the Italian marque scoring a podium on home territory.
“At least a podium here was really good for the team, I’m sure the Tifosi enjoyed it, so that was good,” he added.
Ferrari’s 27-point haul has enabled it to move above Aston Martin into third place in the Constructors’ Championship.