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Austrian GP loss prompted more aggressive Leclerc

Mat Coch

Monday 9th September, 2019 - 10:56am

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Leclerc took a more aggressive approach in the Italian Grand Prix

The disappointment of losing the Austrian Grand Prix to Max Verstappen prompted a more aggressive approach from Charles Leclerc in Monza.

The Ferrari driver won the Italian Grand Prix after withstanding intense pressure from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas throughout the race.

According to Leclerc, the difficult lessons learned in Austria, where he lost out to Verstappen in the closing laps, prompted a harder stance in Italy.

“Since Austria it is clear that you can go a bit further in the way we defend and overtake and just the aggressiveness of us drivers,” Leclerc explained.

“I believe that Austria helped me to change this approach and today it’s also thanks to this that I managed to win.

“It was obviously very on the limit but I’m happy to race like this.”

The victory was far from clean, with the Monegasque driver making a number of mistakes and borderline moves which resulted in him being shown the black and white flag for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

That came following an attack from Hamilton, which Leclerc saw off by appearing to crowd the Mercedes off the road at the second chicane.

“To be completely honest I knew he was completely on the right,” Leclerc explained of the incident, though conceded he wasn’t sure exactly what the black and white flag was shown for.

“He broke a little bit early, which I think was because he didn’t want to try around the outside.

“I felt I had left a car width but I haven’t seen the images. I am pretty sure there was a car’s width.

“I think it’s good if we can race harder. I haven’t seen the images so I cannot comment on this case but overall I am happy if we can race harder.”

Asked why Leclerc was not penalised when Verstappen was for a similar incident with Bottas a year ago, F1 race director Michael Masi explained that it was part of a desire to allow drivers to race.

“I think there’s two parts to that,” Masi responded.

“One, there was contact last year with Max (Verstappen), so that’s one part of it.

“The second part of it is that we need to remember a couple of points; the discussion with the drivers in Bahrain about ‘let them race’, (and) the subsequent discussions that have been ongoing with team principals, drivers, sporting directors.

“Then you look at it, particularly in the context of Spa where we said we are going to reintroduce the use of the bad sportsmanship flag.”

“(Pierre) Gasly, for a very similar incident in Spa, received the bad sportsmanship flag.

“So in that case there was no contact and it was, if you use the analogy, it was the professional foul, so it was Charles’ warning.”

Masi also refuted suggestions that the current, more relaxed approach from the FIA and stewards would see on track incidents escalate.

“I don’t think they will act more dangerously,” the Australian said.

“They are on a border, and you can step over that border relatively easily.

“For me, I think it’s (reintroduction of the unsportsmanlike conduct flag) serving its purpose,” Masi added.

“But you’ve got to look at each incident on its own merit.”

Leclerc became the first Ferrari driver to win the Italian Grand Prix since Fernando Alonso managed the feat for the Scuderia in 2010.

He ultimately led home Bottas, who made a late charge on fresher tyres, while Hamilton faded in the closing laps before stopping for new rubber in pursuit of the fastest lap point.

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