Although in the end inferior, World Championship leader Leclerc can’t help but grin after the mega duel: “That’s how every race should be, really cool! It was tough but fair. I really enjoyed it, this back and forth,” says the Monegasque.
In the final phase, there is a direct duel for victory between him and Verstappen. As at the start of the season, the lead changes several times, but this time it’s even more tactical because the opponents are trying to outsmart each other in order to have the DRS advantage on the long start-finish straight.
Leclerc gives insight into his strategy: “I knew that top speed is Red Bull’s strength this weekend. So it was clear that Max would easily overtake me from start to finish if he had DRS. On the first lap (of the duel; d. Red.) I therefore braked very early, got the DRS myself and overtook him before turn one.”
At least on Sunday, the duel of the new generation is clean, but no less exciting: “The second time, of course, Max knew that I was doing it, so we both braked very early, but I was able to stay ahead,” says Leclerc about the chess game beyond 300 km/h.
Leclerc also admits: “The third time it wasn’t enough for me. Max did a good job there.” Verstappen gets extra praise from Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko. “Thanks to the higher top speed, we were able to overtake Ferrari, but it was an unbelievable maneuver by Max. So it’s worth the money,” says the man from Graz. Background: Red Bull recently gave its world champion a new contract until 2028, with significantly improved salaries.
Angered by the technical debacle at the start, the defending champion hits back in Saudi Arabia, reducing the gap to Leclerc in the World Cup to 20 points. Verstappen is happy about the successful Ravanche: “Of course, every fight is different, but today was clever and good racing. It wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun.”
“It was a great spectacle, how hard the two guys fought with each other,” says Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto and Red Bull counterpart Helmut Marko is happy: “Such an exciting race, unbelievable! We didn’t have it after last year believed there could still be an improvement, but now it looks like it.”