Leclerc 'paid the price' in Sprint for early push on soft tyres

© XPB 

Charles Leclerc says a strong start to his Sprint race at Imola took some durability out of his soft compound tyres and led to him losing out to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the 21-lap dash.

From second, Leclerc enjoyed a perfect launch off the grid to overhaul Verstappen and take a commanding lead only for the race to be neutralized by the Safety Car following an off on the opening lap of Alfa's Guanyu Zhou.

The Ferrari driver and his archrival picked up where they had left off when the race resumed, with Verstappen remaining in close contention as the duo built itself a margin over its pursuers.

But the Dutchman slowly reeled in Leclerc, whose F1-75 started to suffer from front-tyre degradation. Verstappen prepared to bid his time but eventually pounced with three laps to go, passing the defenseless Ferrari into Turn 1 to secure his win.

Leclerc felt that he paid the price in the closing stages of the race for his early push.

"We struggled with the tyres at the end, so we need to analyse that for tomorrow," said Leclerc. "At the end, the main race is tomorrow and we need to make sure that we are ready.

"I pushed hard at the beginning to try and be not too vulnerable with Max having the DRS behind, and I feel like I've paid the price of doing that at the end of the race.

While tyre deg weighed on the Ferrari's pace, Leclerc also admitted that Red Bull's RB18 was perhaps the superior car in the Sprint.

"It felt also like they had something more today, and he kept it towards the end of the race and just overtook me when it mattered," explained the Monegasque.

"We'll work on ourselves for tomorrow and try to maximize our package. Hopefully the same start as today without the degradation drop that we had at the end and a better race overall."

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