Charles Leclerc started the race in Baku today from pole position and finished in P4, and now explains why he lost P1 to Hamilton at the start.
According to the Monegasque, the British driver was able to pass because he had dodged a branch in turn 15. This then led to Hamilton getting closer and overtaking him on the start / finish straight. As a result, the Ferrari driver lost more positions to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez over the next five laps, so he then pitted in P4.
Leclerc explained that he cut the corner to avoid damaging the car, giving Hamilton no advantage.
“It was starting to be quite OK in the first few laps. Then there was something that I think hasn’t been seen on TV. There was part of a tree in the middle of Turn 15, and there I actually lost quite a bit of time.
“I cut the track and I was a bit worried to gain time on Lewis behind that hadn’t cut the track. So I slowed down and then he overtook me.
“From then on, it was quite difficult, because I was behind Lewis in dirty air, which I struggled a little bit, as soon as I lost the DRS, Max overtook me.
“Then you are just in a vicious circle that is very difficult, because I had cars all around me that had a bit more pace than I did.”
Ferrari had decided to bring Leclerc into the pits after the overtaking maneuvers of the opponents. In the process, they lost a position to Pierre Gasly and later to Sebastian Vettel after the safety car restart. Nevertheless, Leclerc narrowly missed out on the podium. The last two laps saw heated duels with Gasly for the final podium spot.
Despite pole position yesterday, Ferrari was not confident that they could maintain their lead over Mercedes and Red Bull. That’s why Leclerc wasn’t surprised when he was overtaken by the two teams.
“I struggled a little bit, then I recovered a bit of pace, but then we decided to stop early to go on those hard tires.
“Let’s say there was nothing that was unexpected in those first few laps, because we expected Mercedes and Red Bull to be a bit stronger anyway.”