Leclerc details ‘clear’ end to Australian GP victory charge

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has praised team-mate Carlos Sainz for his race-winning performance at the Australian Grand Prix off the back of an appendectomy and conceded the battle for victory was over at the first pit window.

Sainz missed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend after withdrawing on Friday in Jeddah after being diagnosed with appendicitis.

Yet the Spaniard returned to the cockpit just 13 days after surgery for practice at Albert Park and, after showing strong pace throughout the weekend, qualified second on the grid.

Overtaking Red Bull’s Max Verstappen before the Dutchman retired from the race, Sainz was never troubled as he secured a third F1 race victory, with Leclerc finishing second to complete a Ferrari one-two for the first time since the opening race of the 2022 season in Bahrain.

“It feels good, mostly for the team of course,” said Leclerc.

“First and second hasn’t happened since Bahrain 2022, which are good memories that we have. It is amazing that we can do that.

“Carlos has had an incredible weekend to come back after his surgery, he has done an amazing race.”

On his race, Leclerc added: “I struggled a bit more on my second stint, I didn’t manage the tyres well.

“The final stint was more positive, but first and second is the best we can do.”

Sainz ‘deserved’ victory

Leclerc found himself third on the road after Verstappen’s retirement in the opening stages of the 58-lap event, though through clever strategy, the Scuderia was able to leapfrog then-second-placed Lando Norris for track position.

On whether he had the power to challenge his team-mate for the win, Monégasque Leclerc replied: “Not really.

“In the first stint, we had to protect from behind so we had to stop a bit earlier and from the second stint onwards, Carlos was very fast and with my tyres, I was struggling.

“As soon as we stopped for the first time, for me it was clear.

“Carlos has done a better job all weekend – at least in qualifying and the race – and he deserved that victory.

“I am really happy for him, I am really happy for the team. We came into the weekend telling ourselves we needed to maximise our points and there is nothing we could have done better.”


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