Charles Leclerc laments ‘frustrating’ Italian Grand Prix Safety Car finish

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc in yellow liveried Ferrari. Monza September 2022.

Charles Leclerc in yellow liveried Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix. Monza September 2022.

Charles Leclerc reflected on a “frustrating” Italian Grand Prix after his hopes of a late challenge to Max Verstappen were thwarted.

Verstappen, who had started from seventh on the grid due to an engine penalty, had got himself firmly in control out ahead due to the blistering pace of his Red Bull with a comfortable advantage over pole-sitter Leclerc.

But as has happened several times within the last 12 months, a late Safety Car period threatened to turn things upside down in terms of the finishing order.

That was triggered by Daniel Ricciardo’s retirement, the car stationary at the side of the track, on lap 47 of 53.

However, this was not a seamless caution period by any means as it took some time for a suitable vehicle to arrive and remove the stricken McLaren, while the Safety Car did not pick up Verstappen immediately and in the end there was simply not enough laps to get everything sorted out in order to trigger a racing restart.

Had green-flag conditions been possible, it would have given Leclerc one last shot at trying to deny Verstappen his 11th victory in 16 races this season and delight the tifosi at Monza – who booed the Dutchman afterwards.

“The end was frustrating,” said runner-up Leclerc in his parc ferme interview. “I wish we could have ended up racing. Unfortunately, we were second at that place because of what happened before.

“It’s a shame, but overall I gave it all, P2 today. I wish I could have won in front of the amazing tifosi we have here but I just couldn’t today.”

Ferrari had brought Leclerc in for an early pit-stop during a Virtual Safety Car period to try something different, aware Red Bull had the greater race pace, but ultimately it was not enough to tip the scales their way.

Asked if he had been happy with that strategy, Leclerc said: “Well, obviously we finished P2 so I’m not extremely happy with the race. But we’ll work on that.

“I think the pace was quite strong today. We’ll have to look into it but I think we were quite strong and it just wasn’t enough.”

Leclerc dropped a further seven points behind Verstappen in the World Championship standings and now trails the title-holder by 116 – and it could all be wrapped up at the next round in Singapore if the Dutchman wins and Leclerc and Sergio Perez fail to score.