Charles Leclerc admitted he enjoyed the United States Grand Prix on Sunday as he climbed from twelfth on the grid to finish on the podium in third place.
A grid penalty had relegated the Scuderia Ferrari driver from the front row to the sixth row at the Circuit of the Americas, but Leclerc made early gains to run inside the top ten, and then took advantage of a well-timed safety car to move into contention for the top three.
He even took second place away from Max Verstappen when the Dutchman suffered a slow pit stop, but the pace of the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver was too much for him to keep him behind, and he felt back to third.
Although he suffered with tyre degradation in the closing laps, he had done enough to take the final step on the podium, and even withstood a late charge from the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez to ensure he moved ahead of the Mexican and back into second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“It was a fun race and I really enjoyed the battles with Max (Verstappen) and Checo (Pérez) on track today,” said Leclerc. “I had a solid start and after that, the first few laps were all about practicing patience.
“Things looked quite good and we even got lucky with the timing of the Safety Car, but unfortunately we had a little too much tyre degradation for the rest of the race and couldn’t fight for higher positions.
“It was great to be back in the US and see how much popularity our sport has gained here over the past years.”
“It’s not easy to catch a break this season” – Carlos Sainz Jr.
After the highs of pole position on Saturday, Carlos Sainz Jr’s race was all but over at the apex of turn one, with the Spaniard being spun around after contact with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s George Russell.
A sluggish getaway had seen him already slip behind Verstappen, but he was never allowed to pursue his rival after the clash with Russell, and he was forced to retire in the pits as his F1-75 was too damaged to continue.
It is the sixth retirement of the season for Sainz and another that was not his doing, but he is focused on ending the season on a high across the final three races.
“Not much to say today,” said Sainz. “I got hit by the Mercedes going into turn 1 while battling with Max (Verstappen), I managed to come back to the pits but the car was too badly damaged to continue.
“I feel the pace would have been there and it would have been an interesting race, but I prefer to look ahead and start focusing on Mexico. It’s not easy to catch a break this season, but we’ll keep going at it until the end.”