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Formula 1 Las Vegas GP

Leclerc: Las Vegas GP win was on until mid-race F1 safety car

Charles Leclerc has rued the mid-race Formula 1 safety-car period for denying him a better opportunity to fight for Las Vegas Grand Prix victory.

The Safety Car Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

A second safety car stint in the Vegas race occurred to clear debris from the track after Max Verstappen and George Russell clashed on lap 25 of 50 – the Mercedes driver picked up a five-second penalty and he admitted to not seeing the Red Bull driver's lunge at Turn 12.

While the safety car gave Sergio Perez a cheap second pitstop, as he pitted from the lead for fresh hards to return in second place behind Leclerc, Red Bull also pitted Verstappen for new hard tyres and he came out in fifth.

Leclerc, who had only made his first pitstop five laps earlier, was kept out by Ferrari as he attempted to make his one-stop strategy work.

But, with the pack backed up behind the safety car, the Red Bulls were able to attack Leclerc, with Verstappen going on to win while the Monegasque beat Perez with a final-lap overtake to claim second place.

While pleased with his best result since the Austrian GP, Leclerc felt victory could have been his without the safety-car intervention.

"Mixed emotions, on one hand, I am extremely happy with today's performance," Leclerc reflected.

"We didn't leave anything on the table and, until the very last corner of the last lap, I gave it my all and managed to get that second place. But, on the other hand, I'm disappointed, as I really believed that without the safety car the win was ours.

"We had a really good first stint on the medium and I think we had five laps newer hards than Max and I had a good four or five laps to get them into temperature. We did a really good job on that so I was really confident the win was ours.

"Then there was, unfortunately, the safety car. Max and Checo stopped, I stayed out on my five-laps used hards, which is not too much but the problem is that when you cool them down during the safety car, to restart the used tyre is incredibly difficult with the used tyres. There we lost the race.

"On the other hand, as Max said, the last part of the race was extremely fun and that gave me a lot of adrenaline inside me in the car and I really enjoyed it."

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Leclerc also conceded that had he pitted under the safety car it was unlikely to have improved his result fighting against two Red Bulls ahead of him at the restart.

"It is always easy to say [about pitting], I had only done five laps and on the other hand I didn't know what Max and Checo would do behind me," he explained.

"If they wouldn't have stopped, then being behind two Red Bulls would've been difficult to pass them. Now I would have stopped but that is with knowing what they have done, so it is easy for me to say."

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