F1: Leclerc says Ferrari career has 'exceeded expectations'
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As Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz cruised towards a one-two on the final lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, many might have expected the celebrations to be getting under way in the Ferrari garage. However, thanks to some mischief from the race winner, the party may well have been delayed as their engineers got a little hot under the collar.
Any concerns about a last-lap battle evaporated when Max Verstappen suffered a mechanical problem and fell out of the race with just two laps to go. When his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez also stopped with the same issue, it became clear that nothing was going to stop the Ferrari duo from tasting glory.
Many drivers in Leclerc’s position would probably focus entirely on getting safely across the finish line before allowing their thoughts to head anywhere else. However, the mischievous Monegasque had something brutal in mind for his engineers.
After those fatal mechanical issues for the cars driven by Verstappen and Perez, he pulled a prank over team radio by claiming he was suffering from a similar problem. “I joked on the radio [on the last lap] that there was something strange with the engine, which I am sure gave a heart attack to the mechanics,” Leclerc admitted after the race.
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No doubt he would have been quickly forgiven by those colleagues he had frightened, considering he had delivered the goods on the track for his team. It was Ferrari’s first one-two for three years, and the first time the team has led a Grand Prix from start to finish since the race at Spa in 2018.
Explaining how happy he was to get the job done for his team, Leclerc said: “The last two years have been difficult for the team and we knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done such an incredible job giving us an building us an amazing car.”
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“I was trying to be as clever as possible using the DRS as much as possible so I was trying to break early into Turn One just to behind him and twice it worked out,” he added, before saying of the late safety car which jeopardised his chances: “I didn’t want it now but I did a great restart so that gave me a little bit of margin to manage my race until the end.”
In terms of points, Ferrari could not have wished for a better weekend as the claimed all the points for finishing first and second, as well as the extra point for fastest lap. The Italian team already has a 17-point gap over Mercedes, which they will expect to widen given the gulf in performance shown between them this weekend.
As Red Bull did not score any points at all, the gap between the two teams expected to be the early pace-setters is already at 44. Second-placed Sainz was happy to declare that “Ferrari is back” in the aftermath of the race, and even team boss Mattia Binotto allowed himself to get a little carried away in the moment.
“It is a relief,” he told Sky Sports F1. “It’s fantastic. A one-two was unexpected. I think it was a great race. I was expecting Red Bull to be even stronger [than us]. I think they were strong, maybe they had some problems through the race with the braking system.
“It’s definitely a big boost. The team remained united before. It’s great to see, but certainly it’s a big boost to go ahead.”
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