Charles Leclerc believes that Ferrari had no choice but to make their first pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car during the Italian Grand Prix.
Despite starting from Pole Position, the Ferrari driver was beaten to the Monza win by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Leclerc led Verstappen in the opening laps of the race, before electing to pit when the VSC was deployed for Sebastian Vettel’s stricken Aston Martin on Lap 11.
His switch from Soft to Medium tyres effectively put the Ferrari driver on a two-stop strategy which, after Verstappen made his sole stop, put him over 15 seconds away from the race lead.
Speaking after the race, Leclerc believed that Ferrari had no choice but to pit under the VSC, insisting that if they stayed out, Red Bull would have pitted instead.
“Honestly, I think the first choice was to stop under the virtual safety car,” Leclerc told media, including RacingNews365.
“We all had the doubts. I think if I wouldn’t have done it, then Max would have done it.
“It was a bit unfortunate because in the middle of the pit lane, the Virtual Safety Car ended, so we didn’t get all the benefit of stopping at that moment, and from that moment on we were a little bit on the backfoot.”
Leclerc buoyed by Ferrari’s pace upturn
Prior to the Italian GP, the Monza venue had been earmarked as a circuit that would favour Red Bull.
With the track possessing a similar high-speed nature to Spa-Francorchamps, where Red Bull secured a one-two result, there were fears over Ferrari’s competitiveness.
However, Leclerc took positives from their Italian GP weekend, and believed Ferrari had made steps forward at a track which was unlikely to suit them.
“After Spa, I think we were quite worried that we were very far [away] in qualifying, but also in race pace compared to Red Bull,” added Leclerc.
“I think this weekend, we’ve been working massively, especially in FP1 and FP2, trying to test different directions for this car, and it was better.
“We were fighting for Pole, which was a surprise. The [race] pace was also much better.
“We cannot forget either that our car is maybe not the best for these types of tracks, but I think it was a positive weekend overall.”