Despite retiring from his first ever Japanese Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc said that he enjoyed a “fun” race battling in the midfield.
Leclerc was involved in a collision with the Haas F1 Team‘s Kevin Magnussen on lap two, the Dane mindlessly swiping across the nose of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team car on the main straight when the Monégasque driver tried to pull out of the slipstream, causing minor nosecone damage that cost time in his sole stop.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver in waiting saw his race end on lap 38 after veering off the road at Degner 1 with an issue believed to be unrelated to the Magnussen incident, ending any chance of a points finish.
“It was a fun race, despite not ending the way we would have liked it to,” mused Leclerc.
“The start was busy – I was fighting with some of the cars around me but eventually had to back off. I lost some places there but fought hard to recover them later on during the race. On the second lap, I was involved in an incident. We made a pit stop shortly after that and changed the nose on my car.
“We knew that it was not ideal to pit so early, but we had to do that to have a chance to fight for points.”
Sauber endured a trying qualifying session yesterday – team-mate Marcus Ericsson crashed at the Dunlop Curve in Qualifying 1, before a damp track and poor timing saw Leclerc unable to improve his time and start from eleventh on the grid. However, the Swiss team showed promising pace in the race and saw the 20-year-old recover some of the position he lost in his lengthy stop.
“After that [pitstop], it went quite well,” he added.
“I was able to recover some positions, but, unfortunately, I had to retire from the race because of a mechanical problem on my car.
“It is a shame not to finish the race, but I look forward to the next one where I hope to fight for some points again.”
On the radio and after the race Leclerc called for action on Magnussen for his antics, labelling the Haas driver as “trouble”, referring back to the flashpoint between Kimi Räikkönen and Max Verstappen at the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix; when the Dutchman moved under braking for Les Combes and prompted the introduction of the ‘Verstappen rule’.
“And I’m not the only one as I’ve obviously spoken with other drivers so I don’t really understand why sometimes we aren’t a bit more harsh with drivers like this because otherwise we are going to continue like this,” Leclerc told Autosport.
“If we can race like this, then I will also race like this but for me it’s not the right way.”