Taking pole position and then withstanding a ferocious late-race attack from a five-time world champion to claim the first F1 win of your career, and Ferrari’s first of the season – it should have been a fantastic weekend for Charles Leclerc. But with the death of his friend, Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert at Spa yesterday, the Monegasque driver admitted that it was hard to truly savour the taste of victory.
Leclerc led the majority of the race at Spa-Francorchamps, having taken his third career pole on Saturday. However, in the final stages of the race, Mercerdes’s Lewis Hamilton piled on the pressure, with the pair crossing the line with less than a second separating them.
After two near-misses for victory already this year – in Bahrain and Austria – it should have been a sweet moment, as Leclerc became Formula 1’s third-youngest winner of all time to boot. But as he pulled into the Spa pits after crossing the line, Leclerc immediately dedicated the win to Hubert over team radio, before going on to expand on the bittersweet feelings going through his head.
“On one hand… a dream since being a child that has been realised,” he told David Coulthard in the post-race interviews. “On the other hand, it has been a very difficult weekend since yesterday. We have lost a friend first of all. It’s very difficult in these situations so I would like to dedicate my first win to him.
“We have grown up together. My first ever race, I have done it with Anthoine when we were younger, there was Esteban [Ocon], Pierre [Gasly]. It’s just a shame what happened yesterday, so I can’t enjoy fully my first victory, but it will definitely be a memory I will keep forever.”
From a pure racing side, Leclerc admitted to being happy with his race performance, and in particular his own improvements in managing the tyres compared to the Hungarian Grand Prix last time out, where he finished P4.
“It’s been a very difficult race,” said Leclerc. “The end of the race was definitely not easy. [Lewis] was catching very quickly, so I had quite a bit of pressure but happy I kept him behind.
“We’ve been struggling quite a bit with the tyres towards the end,” he added, “but a lot happier than what I’ve done in Budapest on my side. I’ve managed the tyres better. Mercedes were very quick in the race and we expected it yesterday, but in the end it’s a good weekend performance-wise, pole position and the first victory, so for that, I’m quite satisfied.”
Leclerc’s emotional maiden F1 win sees him close the gap to team mate Sebastian Vettel’s fifth place in the drivers’ standings to just 12 points, with Vettel having finished the race in fourth place, having been forced into a two-stop strategy.
Drivers’ standings post-Spa
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||268|
|2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||203|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||181|
|4 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari||169|
|5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||157|