Charles Leclerc has openly admitted that he would’ve done “exactly the same” as Max Verstappen on the run up to the first corner in Saturday’s sprint race, had he been in the Dutchman’s position.
Starting from second in the sprint at the United States Grand Prix, it was Leclerc who made the better launch off the line.
As a result, Verstappen immediately cut across the circuit to try and block the Monegasque, who was left to take an extremely tight line on the inside of the three-time World Champion.
This impacted Leclerc out of the first corner and allowed Lewis Hamilton to overtake him around the outside.
The Ferrari driver went onto finish the sprint in a lonely third behind Verstappen and Hamilton, although had the event been one-lap longer then he would’ve been overtaken by Lando Norris.
Some were quick to slam Verstappen for the aggression he showed against Leclerc on the run up to the first corner; however, the 26-year-old has defended what the Red Bull driver did and insisted it’s the “way I like to fight”.
“To be honest, I would have done exactly the same if I was in his position,” Leclerc admitted after the 19-lap race, as reported by The Mirror.
“It’s on the limit but I’ve always said in the past that’s the way I like to fight. So this today didn’t play out my way but that’s fine, it’s part of racing and I’m happy with it.
“It was very tight into Turn 1. Unfortunately, lost momentum by fighting Max, and Lewis will get alongside me. I still tried around the outside of Turn 2, which was quite tricky with cold tyres, and then getting into Turn 3 there was no way for me to keep going without colliding with Lewis, so I just lift off.
“It was very difficult from that moment onwards because we lost quite a bit in the first lap, then we didn’t have the DRS, then I was just doing my own race. Lewis and Max were too strong, especially in the first few laps, then towards the end we were more on the pace of Lewis but it was too late.”
Leclerc will be hoping to feature amongst the top-three again on Sunday, where the big points are up for grabs.
The Ferrari driver will be starting the main race from pole position, with Norris alongside him.
Whether he can convert it into victory or not remains unknown; however, it does appear that Verstappen, Hamilton and Norris all have better race pace.