‘No relief feeling’: Charles Leclerc’s blunt reply to Max Verstappen winning title

Charles Leclerc's last lap penalty at Suzuka handed Max Verstappen his second consecutive world title.

Formula 1 is certainly enduring an odd few weeks, with Red Bull having breached the 2021 budget cap and the “strange” handling of the recent Japanese Grand Prix attracting criticism.

The recent round was one to forget for Charles Leclerc, after his last lap mistake ensured that Max Verstappen claimed his second consecutive World Championship, as the Dutchman won his 12th race of the year.

Whilst Verstappen was 27 seconds in front, Leclerc was in an intense last lap battle with Sergio Pérez.

As they approached the Turn 16/17 chicane, it was looking like Leclerc was set to claim second, meaning that the title fight would go to the United States Grand Prix this weekend.

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However, Leclerc locked-up and went across the chicane, but crucially still finished directly ahead of Pérez.

Leclerc was therefore awarded a five-second time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage, as his off-track excursion denied Pérez the chance to overtake for second.

The penalty demoted the Monegasque from second to third, giving Verstappen the points lead he needed to win the title at the home of Honda.

It wasn’t actually known at first, though, that Verstappen had claimed the title, as some people told him he had won the championship, whilst others said he hadn’t.

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Red Bull employees even opened up the rulebook to see if the Dutchman had done enough, before it was officially confirmed he was champion once again.

Following the confusion, Leclerc has called for the FIA to “get better” at dealing with odd scenarios, with only half of the race distance having been completed due to a long weather-related red flag interval.

The 24-year-old revealed the conversation he had with his rival in parc ferme, where nothing was “clear”.

“It was a bit strange, because I think actually the first time they told Max he was the World Champion, he looked at me and he said, ‘No, actually, I’m not,'” Leclerc told media.

“And I was like, ‘Maybe you are, because they are saying it’. So it was not clear for any of us.

“It was a bit strange. There [were] so many things that weren’t clear: the full points, not the full points; the penalty, not a penalty. So yeah, it was like this.”

As a result of the confusion, Verstappen still hasn’t won a title under normal circumstances.

The 2021 season finale was, of course, overshadowed by Michael Masi’s handling of the race, whereas at Suzuka it was just pure bewilderment.

Leclerc wants the FIA to have “discussions” about getting better at implementing the rules, as fans and broadcasters were also left in the dark.

“I do believe that we need to get better at this, for sure,” Leclerc explained.

“But I’m sure there will be discussions in the next few races in order for us to move forward and to get better.”

Given that Verstappen entered Suzuka with a virtually uncatchable lead, Leclerc still struggled to deal with the fact that he had lost the 2022 title, one that he comfortably led at the start of the season.

The Ferrari driver was asked if he felt any relief with the title now being over and in Verstappen’s hands again, with the Monegasque’s answer being fairly definitive.

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“No,” Leclerc bluntly answered.

“As a driver, I want to win the title, so obviously as soon as I knew or realised that it was going to be very unlikely, it was difficult to accept.

“[There was] no relief feeling whatsoever.”