Charles Leclerc claims Ferrari were ‘unlucky’, but not because of the Safety Car

Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc to victory at the Italian Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc asserts that his team made the right choice pitting him under the Virtual Safety Car at the Italian Grand Prix.

The Monegasque started on pole after a sublime effort in qualifying on Saturday, while Max Verstappen began seventh due to grid penalties having qualified second initially.

It took the Dutchman just a few laps to carve his way through the field and make his way past George Russell to take second, and he was hunting down Leclerc for the lead.

The VSC was deployed when Sebastian Vettel pulled over to the side of the racetrack in his Aston Martin having suffered an engine failure.

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Ferrari took that opportunity to pit their driver, but the caution period ended while he was still in the pit lane, so the 24-year-old did not get to reap the rewards of the stop.

Verstappen then stopped onto fresher Mediums later on in the race, and he was rapidly closing on the Ferrari, so the Scuderia pitted their driver again.

Leclerc was not making many inroads on the Red Bull, and hope was dangled in front of him in the form of a late Safety Car following Daniel Ricciardo’s retirement.

However, the Safety Car initially picked up the wrong driver, and it took a while for the marshals to clear the McLaren, as it was in an awkward place and they could not get it into neutral.

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The race finished behind the Safety Car, and Verstappen claimed his 11th win of the season.

Leclerc felt at the time as though race control could have given the drivers at least one lap of green flag running.

“I think the pace wasn’t bad today,” he told Sky Sports.

“The thing is that we’ve been pretty unlucky with the Virtual Safety Car ending in the middle of the pit lane for the first stop.

“We were happy to make it harder for ourselves on the Mediums, with having a longer stint, if we had the benefit of stopping in the Virtual Safety Car.

“But unfortunately, we didn’t get the full benefit of stopping under the Virtual,nd then we had to make those Mediums last as long as possible.

“For the last laps, from the driver’s point of view, or from my point of view, it felt like the track was clear.

“So, I was expecting a restart, but maybe there are things in the background that I don’t know, but maybe that’s why we couldn’t start, I don’t know.”

The five-time race winner does not believe his team did anything wrong by trying to capitalise on the VSC during the first stint.

“Today, I think it’s very difficult because [because of the timing of] the Virtual Safety Car ending, and of course when you look at the whole season, there are many races where we could have done things better,” explained Leclerc.

“But, today again, I don’t think it’s that clear and, unfortunately, we look like now we’ve done a bad choice, but [that’s] just because we didn’t get the full benefit of our choice.”

As for Ferrari’s pace deficit to Red Bull, the Milton Keynes-based side are looking incredibly tough to beat at present.

“They are really good, especially in the race, especially managing the rear overheating, so on that, they seem to have the upper hand,” added Leclerc.

However, he was optimistic when asked about the team’s chances of winning another race in the final six rounds of the year.

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“Yes, I think so, and we’ll work for that,” replied Leclerc.

“I mean, we’ve shown that we’ve had a great reaction from Spa to Monza, we still need to keep in mind that these are not tracks that are good for our race car but still we have shown a good pace, so I’m sure we can win some other races.”

Verstappen now leads Leclerc by 116 points in the Drivers’ Standings, and he could get the title wrapped up at the next race in Singapore.