Charles Leclerc felt Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda played ‘a bit of a game’ during the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday by making Brendon Hartley slow the pace to ensure Pierre Gasly finished inside the points.
The Monegasque racer was directly behind Hartley when the New Zealander slowed his pace to give Gasly the opportunity to remain ahead, with the gap between the two growing from fifteen seconds on lap twenty-six to more than twenty-eight seconds just ten laps later.
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team racer Leclerc was the first of those on the tail of Hartley in that spell, and the drop in pace ended any realistic chance of scoring points, although that was to come to a crushing end later on with brake failure that resulted in Leclerc hitting the back of Hartley’s car at the Nouvelle Chicane.
“That was so frustrating,” Leclerc is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “I think Toro Rosso has played a bit of a game.
“Brendon was clearly slowing down at one point. We were like 2.8s slower than the laps we were doing at the end of the race. Before that we were in a very good place to score points, theoretically.”
Leclerc admitted that his team would have probably considered doing the same tactics had they been the ones in front and with a time penalty to come, and he was not criticising Toro Rosso at all, saying it was just frustrating to be the one following Hartley when the pace dropped.
“If we were in their position, considering Brendon’s penalty, we probably would have done the same as a team,” admitted Leclerc. “It’s not blaming anything on Toro Rosso, it was just frustrating to be the car behind.”
Leclerc’s incident at the Nouvelle Chicane was investigated by the stewards but no penalty was deemed necessary as it was car failure, rather than driver error that saw both drivers retire from the race.