Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc thanked by PETA for saving cat in Baku

Oliver Harden
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc faces the media following his first-lap retirement at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, 2023.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc faces the media following his first-lap retirement at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, 2023.

Animal rights organisation PETA has reached out to thank Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc for his contribution to saving the life of a cat during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race.

Leclerc caused concern during the race in Baku when he seemed to report an engine cut over team radio as the Formula 1 field circulated behind the Safety Car.

It later transpired, however, that the Monegasque had instead noticed a cat walking across the circuit, with video footage released later showing the pace car swerving to avoid the feline on the short straight between Turns 1 and 2.

Leclerc went on to finish second behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the 17-lap race, having set pole position for both the sprint and the grand prix itself.

According to French publication AutoHebdo, PETA – which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – have sent to a letter to Leclerc praising his efforts in bringing the presence of the stray cat to the attention of his team and fellow competitors.

“We send you all our gratitude and are happy to know that the animals can count on you,” it read.

“We congratulate you on your victory in second position and wish you much success.” recommends

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The true meaning of Leclerc’s radio message was revealed in the post-sprint FIA press conference, in which he was quizzed about the nature of his phantom engine cut.

He said: “Absolutely not, I said: ‘A cat’ – which is different!

“There was a cat in the middle of the road and the Safety Car had to stop, but I think I was probably the only one who saw that.

“In the exit of Turn 1, there was a cat and the Safety Car braked.

“It wasn’t too bad, but I just felt like I was going to say.”

Sitting alongside Leclerc in the press conference, Perez joked that his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen could potentially adopt the cat.

Leclerc is not the first driver to encounter an animal on track, with arguably the most memorable moment involving another Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel at the Canadian GP of 2016.

Attempting to build a lead over eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton, Vettel was forced to steer around a pair of seagulls in the middle of the track at the first corner.

“I am a racing driver, so I have to find some sort of excuse why the hell you beat me today,” Vettel told Hamilton in a legendary post-race interview with Sky Sports F1.

“I have my eyes into Turn 1 and I saw this stupid couple of seagulls sitting there all relaxed.

“They stayed there,” he added. “That what really annoyed me.

“They stayed there!”