Charles Leclerc says his second place in the Las Vegas Grand Prix was bittersweet after overtaking Sergio Perez on the final lap but failing to win from pole position again.
The Ferrari driver has taken pole on five occasions so far this year, bringing his career tally up to 23. However, his last victory came in the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix and he saw his latest chance hurt by a safety car in Las Vegas that left him in a scrap with both Red Bull drivers, beating Perez to second with a strong move at the end of the Strip on the final lap.
“Mixed emotions,” Leclerc said. “On one hand, I’m extremely happy with the performance. I think we didn’t leave anything on the table and, until the very last lap — the last corner of the last lap — I gave it all and managed to get that second place.
“On the other hand, obviously disappointed because I really believe that without the safety car, the win was ours, because we had a really good first stint on the medium [tire] and we had five-lap-newer [hard tires] than Max [Verstappen]. I had a good four, five laps in order to bring them into temperature and we had done a really good job on that, so I was really confident that the win was ours.
“Then there was unfortunately the safety car. Max and Checo stopped and I stayed on my five-lap used hards, which is not too much, five laps. But the problem is that then when you cool them down during the safety car, to restart a used tire is incredibly difficult with those temperatures. There we lost the race. On the other hand, I think the last part of the race was extremely fun, and that gave me a lot of adrenaline inside the car and I really enjoyed it.”
Leclerc believes the battle with the two Red Bull drivers was important for Formula 1 to showcase the potential of the Las Vegas circuit as a racing venue, following criticism earlier in the weekend and the lost practice time with track issues on Thursday night.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I think we needed it. Of course the weekend didn’t start the way it had to start, but I’m so happy that it ended that way. It’s such an incredible sport, and I think there was no better race for a first race in Vegas. The energy around the city is incredible. And yeah, just really happy…. I mean, at least, I really enjoyed [the race].”