Formula 1 Racing

Leclerc reveals near-miss with “a cat in the middle of the road” in sprint race · RaceFans

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc described how he and the Safety Car had to avoid an errant cat on the circuit during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race.

Leclerc led the early phase of the 17-lap sprint race from pole position including under the early Safety Car deployed due to a high level of debris along the Baku city circuit.

Leading the field behind the Safety Car, Leclerc rounded turn one at the start of lap five and saw Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander take avoiding action to miss a stray cat on the circuit. Leclerc reported the fearless feline over team radio, which was misinterpreted on the world feed as him reporting a “cut” on his car.

“I said a ‘cat’, which is different!,” Leclerc said in the post sprint race press conference. “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.

“In the exit of turn one, there was a cat and the Safety Car braked. It wasn’t too bad.”

After the race restarted on the following lap, Leclerc was soon overtaken by Sergio Perez for the lead of the race along the main straight when DRS was activated. Leclerc tried to stay close to the leader but eventually faded over the end of the race to finish second, four seconds behind Perez.

“Basically once you start with the tyre degradation, that’s where they started to go away or that Checo started to go away,” Leclerc explained. “So from that moment onwards we had a little bit of a disadvantage.”

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Leclerc will start on pole position again for tomorrow’s grand prix. He says he is encouraged by the improved performance of his Ferrari team compared to the opening rounds of the season.

“I don’t know how much of a fight it was, but I tried my best,” he said.

“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 since quite a bit, so we are working on that, trying to find something for the races. In qualifying, we seem to be okay.

“Having said that, I believe we did a step forward. I mean, if you look at Australia and here we are, we are better. We are not yet at the level of Red Bull, so still a lot of work to do.”

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