Charles Leclerc baffled by Sergio Perez after Max Verstappen incident

Charles Leclerc finished ahead of Carlos Sainz at Suzuka for the first time since the Belgian GP before the summer break.

Charles Leclerc comically mistook Max Verstappen for Sergio Perez at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, which made the Ferrari driver think he was set for a podium.

Starting from fourth, Leclerc had a good start to the race and remained where he started, a position he actually held for the entire race.

It was a lonely afternoon at Suzuka for the Monegasque, who never threatened the podium places but also never really received much threat from podium.

Whilst he finished fourth for the second race in a row, Leclerc actually thought he was third.

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Leclerc thought he’d overtaken Verstappen earlier in the race whilst it’d been neutralised for debris on track, although what he didn’t realise is that it was actually Perez.

Perez retired twice from the race, with Red Bull have allowed him to rejoin the Grand Prix late on to serve a five-second time penalty, before making him retire again.

Remarkably, it wasn’t until the last lap that Leclerc discovered that he was in fourth rather than third, with him still being convinced after the race that he overtook the reigning World Champion.

“I saw Max stopping at the Virtual Safety Car or after the Safety Car, I don’t know what happened there, and I thought he wasn’t in the race anymore,” Leclerc said, as reported by ESPN.

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“So I thought I was doing a podium until the last lap where I actually looked at the board and I was P4, but yeah, I mean, there were really strong.

“Max of course, we expected him to be strong. We expected Checo [Perez] also, but I don’t know what happened for him and the two McLarens, too.”

Leclerc continued to think post-race that Verstappen had stopped during the race, allowing everyone to overtake him.

“No, he slowed down at one point no? Exit of turn 14,” Leclerc asked.

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“I think it was the VSC, he basically stopped on the left and we all overtook him.”

When it was revealed to Leclerc that it was Perez he overtook and not Verstappen, finishing P4 finally made sense to the Ferrari driver.

“Oh right okay. That’s what it was. I thought Max was out of the race at that moment it was just confusing for me,” said Leclerc.