Charles Leclerc admitted he had got “too greedy” as an Emilia Romagna Grand Prix spin cost him a bigger World Championship lead.
The Ferrari driver had won two of the season’s first three races, but from the moment he made a bad start from second place on a damp Imola grid he was never in the hunt to beat pole-sitter and eventual victor Max Verstappen this time.
A runner’s-up finish was a possibility, however, but that disappeared on lap 53 of 63 when, chasing Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, Leclerc took too much kerb at the Variante Alta and spun, his car coming to rest against the wall with slight front wing damage – to the groans of the tifosi.
I gave it all but went over the limit at the end. Sorry to the team and to all the tifosi that supports us. Instead of a P3, it ended up in a P6. We’ll come back stronger.
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) April 24, 2022
He made it back to the pits to have the wing changed and then chased down and passed three rivals to finish sixth.
Having held a 40-point World Championship lead at the start of the race, the Monegasque driver’s advantage has been cut to 27 by Verstappen. If he had finished third, Leclerc would have retained the 34-point margin with which he had entered the weekend.
“It is a big shame,” Leclerc told Sky F1 afterwards. “Whatever happened before the spin, these are details and it’s part of racing. I believe the spin shouldn’t have happened today.
“P3 was the best I could do. We didn’t have the pace for much more and I was too greedy. I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points compared to my third place I was before. It’s seven points that are very valuable at the end of the championship for sure and this shouldn’t happen again.”
Leclerc must also be concerned that his lead in the standings is only so big because Verstappen had to retire when booked for P2 in Bahrain and Australia, surrendering 36 points that had looked to be coming his way.
This result showed Red Bull now have the momentum heading to round five of the season in Miami.
“Only time will tell how much of a step they (Red Bull) did, but for sure they seemed to be more competitive than the first three races, or similar to Jeddah let’s say,” added Leclerc.
“We had the upper hand in Bahrain and Australia and they had the upper hand this week and in Jeddah, so it’s very close and I think it will be that way for the rest of the season.
“That is why every small mistake…it’s a big mistake but the consequence could have been much bigger. It’s only seven points today but it could cost more the next time, so I need to be careful.”