Charles Leclerc admitted after Saturday’s Sprint race at the United States Grand Prix that he was “happy” with how aggressive Max Verstappen was on the opening lap, who he battled with on the run up to the first corner.
It was the Monegasque who made the better launch off the line in P2 despite being on the dirty side of the grid, resulting in Verstappen immediately pulling across the circuit from pole position.
Verstappen forced Leclerc right to the inside of the circuit and almost onto the grass; however, the Dutchman left just enough room.
The Red Bull driver’s aggression resulted in Leclerc having to take an extremely tight line into the first corner, something which massively compromised his exit.
Lewis Hamilton overtook Leclerc on the exit of the corner as a result, demoting the 26-year-old to third.
Leclerc went onto finish in a distant third, although he would’ve finished in fourth behind Lando Norris had the sprint been 20 laps instead of 19.
Speaking after the sprint, Leclerc noted that he had to give the overtake on Verstappen a go and that Mercedes were a “bit stronger” than the Maranello-based squad.
“There was an opportunity, there was a gap and I tried. But obviously then it was tight and I lost the position to Lewis but they were a bit stronger today in race pace,” Leclerc said, as reported by Motorsport Week.
“We expected them [to be] stronger and they were, so we need to work to try and understand what we can do better to be a step ahead tomorrow.”
In regard to Verstappen and Leclerc’s battle up to the opening corner, the three-time World Champion actually received some criticism from fans for being too aggressive.
Leclerc, though, doesn’t agree with this and admits he would’ve done “exactly the same” had he been in the Dutchman’s position.
“To be honest, I would have done exactly the same if I was in his position,” Leclerc admitted.
“It’s on the limit, but as I’ve always said in the past, that’s the way I like to fight. So this today didn’t play in my way, but that’s fine. It’s part of racing and I’m happy with it.”