Charles Leclerc says he cost himself in Singapore with a sub-par start, Red Bull proving too strong as the race went on.
On a weekend when Leclerc was fighting to keep his very faint title hopes alive, he set himself up in the best way possible by claiming pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.
His launch off the line in the Ferrari was poor though, allowing Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to go from P2 to the lead – a position he maintained to take the race win, his second of the season.
Leclerc challenged Perez in the closing stages, although once he dropped out of DRS range Perez pulled away, the threat of a time penalty looming for a pair of alleged Safety Car infringements.
Perez ultimately received a reprimand, two Super Licence penalty points and a five-second time penalty for his troubles as he dropped too far behind the Safety Car multiple times, although he kept the win having opened up a gap over Leclerc beyond five seconds.
Although Leclerc dropped away from Perez after his initial challenge, finishing 7.595 seconds behind at the chequered flag, he felt his pace was not really representative by that point as he decided to focus on just bringing the car home once Perez was more than five seconds clear.
Ultimately, Leclerc felt the damage for him was all done at the start.
“The start wasn’t good enough and then it was a really difficult race for us to overtake,” Leclerc told reporters in the media pen.
“With Red Bull, it seemed we had the upper hand in the first few laps and then they seemed to struggle a little bit with [tyre] warm-up, but then once they put the tyres in a window they are very strong.
“But then at the end of the race it wasn’t that representative. I was pushing until the gap was like 5.1 seconds, and then when I knew it was 5.1 I just kind of brought the car home, so the pace wasn’t that representative at the end.
“But having said that, I pushed quite a bit at the beginning of the stint and probably my tyres were a little bit overheated at the end.”
With Carlos Sainz claiming P3, it meant both Ferrari drivers were on the podium for the first time since Miami.
“That long?” Leclerc replied when informed of this.
“That’s good, and as I said before the weekend, we are trying to take those last races to improve our execution on Sunday – communication, strategy,” he continued.
“We’ve already done a few changes and it’s not been an easy race today, but I think we’ve made the right choice and I’m happy.
“Then of course we’ll look into the start because that’s where we more or less lost the race.”
Arghhh, bad start and then pushing flat out till the end but never really had the chance to get the position back. See you in Japan 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/mzv555ms6w
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) October 2, 2022
Sainz delivered a rather underwhelming display despite claiming P3, falling away rapidly from the Perez-Leclerc battle at the front.
He explained his struggles with front tyre wear in the first stint was his undoing and while he felt he was finding pace on the dry tyres towards the end, by then the damage was done.
“Bit of a strange one. I’ve been quick all weekend, quick in every condition,” Sainz stated.
“But that first stint on the intermediates, I lost the front tyres very quickly and since then I couldn’t push and I was struggling a lot with the car rotation, didn’t find really the grip and I wanted to go onto the slicks as soon as possible to try and recover the pace.
“But towards the end of the race I managed to recover the pace, but it was a bit too late to be honest. I had to settle for P3 because there wasn’t much more.”
Like his team-mate, Sainz also felt the race start was important, believing whoever led after that would win. That is indeed how it turned out.
“Checo got Charles at the start, I had a good start, but I think today who would have got P1 at the start would have won the race,” Sainz suggested.
“I wish I could have started a bit further ahead, but at the same time I think it’s a good result for the team also for the Constructors’.”
Leclerc remains in title contention, just about, heading to the Japanese Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen having managed only a P7 finish.