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Formula 1 United States GP

Leclerc 'would've done same' as Verstappen in F1 US GP sprint start squeeze

Charles Leclerc says Max Verstappen’s defensive start squeeze in Formula 1’s 2023 Austin sprint race was “on the limit”, but the Ferrari driver reckons he “would’ve done exactly the same”.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, squeezes Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, ahead of Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field

The pair started from the front row for the sprint race at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, with Leclerc gaining enough as they roared away at the start to edge his front wheels alongside Verstappen’s left-rear.

As they headed up the steep hill towards Austin’s Turn 1 left-hand hairpin, Verstappen swung left and pushed Leclerc fully across the pitlane exit.

The Ferrari’s left-side wheels neared the circuit’s grass inner track lining in the process before they moved slightly back to the right for first corner’s apex.

That left Leclerc pinched at Turn 1 and allowed Lewis Hamilton to attack him as they then shot down the hill to Turn 2, with the Mercedes getting ahead after a short, close skirmish towards the start of the circuit’s Esses complex.

When asked by Autosport if he thought Verstappen’s start defence was acceptable in the post-sprint race press conference, Leclerc replied: “To be honest, I would’ve done exactly the same if I was in his position.

“It’s on the limit, but as I’ve always said in the past, that’s the way I like to fight. So today didn’t play my way, but that’s fine. It’s part of racing and I’m happy with it.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, are presented with their trophies by US track and field star Sha'Carri Richardson, after the Sprint race

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, are presented with their trophies by US track and field star Sha'Carri Richardson, after the Sprint race

Verstappen, for his part, reckoned “Charles just had a little bit of a better start” and so he “tried to make it as difficult as possible for him to get into Turn 1 and luckily that worked out”.

Verstappen went on to dominate the race ahead of Hamilton was left to reflect that “the start was important”.

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He added: “It was not too bad from pole here. We got quite close into Turn 1, but luckily Turn 1 here is quite wide so you can enter with a few cars if needed.

“And from there the first few laps Lewis’s pace was pushing to stay in the DRS and try to have a go, and once I basically cleared the DRS I basically focus on my own pace and tried to look after the tyres and I could maintain, basically that pace.

“And that was quite important today.”

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