Leclerc: Tree branch caused loss of early lead to Hamilton

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Charles Leclerc says a broken tree branch laying on the track and the subsequent avoiding action he took caused him to lose his early lead in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton.

The Ferrari driver enjoyed a good launch from pole position on the grid and held his own at the front of the field on the opening lap before being overtaken by Hamilton and losing ground thereafter.

"It was starting to be quite ok in the first few laps," said Leclerc after Sunday's race "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 I actually lost quite a bit of time because I cut the track and I was a bit worried to gain time on Lewis behind who 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 and 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."

Leclerc was heading to a fifth-place finish when the race was red-flagged just three laps from the end after leader Max Verstappen suffered a tyre failure and crashed heavily into the wall on the main straight.

A second standing start took place and was followed by a frantic two-lap mad dash. Leclerc passed AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly for fourth place at the start but the Frenchman fought back and reclaimed the final spot on the podium on the ultimate lap.

"I really enjoyed the last part, but the first part wasn't great," Leclerc said. "Let's say it was expected.

"It wasn't a huge disappointment. We knew that Max, the Red Bulls and Mercedes had quite a bit more pace than us on the long run. I tried not to fight them too much and focus on my race.

"The two big surprises from today were the two Aston Martins that were flying and we need to understand that because they definitely did something right."

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