Under the safety car during Saturday’s sprint, the Ferrari driver appeared to be raising the alarm about a cut to the power unit, and was publicly revealed as such on television with an on-screen graphic.
Asked about his comments regarding a ‘cut’ during the official post-sprint press conference, Leclerc clarified that it he was actually talking about a cat running across the path of the safety car.
The feline interloper caused the safety car to briefly put on the brakes, with Leclerc – then leading the race – reporting it over the radio.
Asked if the misidentified cut was going to be a recurring problem, Leclerc replied: “Absolutely not. I said a cat, which is different!
“There was a cat in the middle of the road and the safety car had to stop, but I think I was probably the only one who saw that.
“But yeah, out of Turn 1 there was a cat and the safety car braked. It wasn’t too bad, but I felt like I had to say it!”
Leclerc explained that Ferrari had made a further step from its performance at the Australian Grand Prix, which he stated earlier in the weekend had offered the team a breakthrough in set-up.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
He caveated that by stating the team still needs to “find something” in the races, having excelled in both qualifying sessions at the Baku circuit to secure pole for the sprint and the grand prix.
But he fell behind eventual winner Sergio Perez once the Red Bull driver had access to DRS, and the gap continued to grow as Leclerc tried to keep life in his tyres.
“I don’t know much of a fight it was, but I tried my best,” Leclerc explained.
“We are still lacking some pace in the race, this is definitely where our focus is at the moment. It’s been the case now for quite a bit.
“So we are working on that, trying to find something for the races. In qualifying, we seem to be OK – having said that, I believe we have made a step forward.
“If you look at Australia and here, here we are better. We are not yet at the level of Red Bull so there’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m a bit happier with the car.
“Once you start with the tyre degradation, that’s when Checo started to go away. Max [Verstappen] started to come back. From that moment onward, we had a little bit of a disadvantage.”
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