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Leclerc admits he had no issue with Verstappen’s defensive display leading into Turn 1

The Monegasque driver finished the sprint race in third place, with Verstappen going on to win the race by nearly 10 seconds

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Charles Leclerc has stated that he would have defended in the exact same way that Max Verstappen did to him after the Dutchman held off the Ferrari driver into Turn 1 in the sprint race at the United States Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen
Verstappen and Leclerc’s battle heading into Turn 1 at the start of the sprint race. Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images

In the sprint-shootout earlier in the day, Verstappen would claim pole position for the sprint race, with Leclerc missing out on starting from P1 by less than a tenth of a second.

However, for Sunday’s race, the Monegasque will start from the front of the grid after Verstappen’s lap invalidation in qualifying handed Leclerc his 21st career pole in Formula 1.

In the sprint race itself at the Circuit of the Americas, both Verstappen and Leclerc got off the line very well, with the Red Bull driver deciding to employ some strong defensive tactics against his title rival of last season heading into Turn 1.

Verstappen managed to stay in the lead of the race, but in doing so, would slightly compromise Leclerc’s race. Due to the now three-time world champion squeezing the Ferrari man towards the pit lane exit on the run up to the first corner, this allowed Lewis Hamilton to get a better exit coming out of Turn 1 and would subsequently lead to the Mercedes driver overtaking Leclerc.

Over the next 19 laps, Verstappen and Hamilton would end up breaking away from the rest of the pack. Despite the British driver’s best attempts to stay in the Dutchman’s DRS, Verstappen’s pace would grow stronger and he would go on to claim another sprint race victory in 2023.

Leclerc enjoyed fighting on the limit into Turn 1 with Verstappen

After the race, Leclerc spoke to the media, including, as he reflected on his battle with Verstappen in the opening stages of the race.

“To be honest I would have done exactly the same if I was in his position,” Leclerc said. “It’s on the limit but as I’ve always said in the past that’s the way I like to fight.”

“Today didn’t go my way but that’s fine. That’s part of racing but I am happy with it.”

However, the Ferrari driver was disappointed that his battle with the world champion caused him to lose a valuable position, as he opens up on a difficult race.

“I had a good start then I saw a little gap on the left, very little, I tried to go for it and then it was very tight into Turn 1.”

“I unfortunately lost momentum by fighting Max and Lewis could get alongside me. Then I still tried around the outside of Turn 2 which was quite tricky with cold tyres and then getting to Turn 3 there was no way for me to keep going without colliding with Lewis so I just lifted 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.”

Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Song Haiyuan/MB Media/Getty Images)

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