Charles Leclerc points finger at ‘over the line’ Carlos Sainz over late-race battle

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc battled hard in the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc believes Carlos Sainz crossed the line during their battle late in the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint race.

The two Ferrari drivers almost came to blows during the final laps of the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint, with Charles Leclerc saying he believes his teammate went a step too far in his defence.

Charles Leclerc: Today, Carlos went a bit over the limit

The two Ferrari drivers were fighting over fourth and fifth places in the closing laps of the Sprint race, with Sainz leading Leclerc after a spirited fight with Fernando Alonso had left Sainz on the back foot.

In defence, Sainz ran Leclerc out wide at the hairpin, leading the Monegasque driver to get on team radio to complain and say the Spaniard was “racing him harder than the others” and “let’s talk”.

But, out of the car after the chequered flag, Leclerc was matter-of-fact as he said that, while he felt Sainz had gone too far in his defence, it was something he felt could be easily moved on from.

“I think so,” he said, when asked if Sainz had gone too far.

“But, to be honest, I have crossed the line also myself in the past.

“When this happens, we normally have a discussion and we clear the air. We went through that in the past already, and it went really well so I have no worries that it won’t be the case also this weekend.

“But, today, he went a bit over the limit, I mean, contact between us too. Being in a different race situation because I had saved the tyres quite a bit, I had a good pace at the end – it’s a bit of a shame that we lost that gap to Perez and couldn’t go and take him.

“It’s like this at the end. P4, could have been P3, one point, you can always do better, but we’ll focus onto this afternoon because this will be the game changer having a good qualifying which hasn’t been the case for me in the last two races.

“I have done a lot of work. I am very confident that I have done steps forward. Now it’s up to me to prove it. I think yesterday, SQ1 and SQ2 were really good. So I need to reproduce that this afternoon.”

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Carlos Sainz apologies for Charles Leclerc incident

With Leclerc’s comments put to him in the media pen following the race, Sainz held his hands up and apologised as he explained it from his perspective.

“I did a good start, I was pushing Max [Verstappen] hard at the beginning because I knew, if I passed him, I had a strong chance of winning the race,” he said.

“That probably killed my tyres a bit and then I was managing for the rest of the race until I got Fernando.

“Behind Fernando, I think I did a really good move around the outside of Turn 7. I think, from then on, he decided to be a bit all or nothing, which cost us both the race, which I think I picked up a bit of damage and a lot of dirt on my tyres from the optimistic move.

“From there on, I was sliding around with damage on the car and dirt on my tyres and I was doing everything I could to defend, and obviously sliding, and maybe had a bit of a moment with Charles.

“I apologise if I did something over the limit but we were all racing really hard today and I was trying my best to keep it under control out there.”

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