Leclerc ultimately finished fourth at Suzuka as Ferrari didn’t have the pace to match either Red Bull or McLaren.

Verstappen secured his 13th victory of F1 2023, while teammate Perez endured a difficult afternoon.

Perez retired from the race after sustaining damage from an incident with Kevin Magnussen, which he was penalised for.

Speaking after the race, Leclerc explained why he was “confused”.

 “Yeah I didn’t even follow what Max did because I saw him stopping at the Safety Car or after the Safety Car,” Leclerc said. “I don't know what happened there and I thought he wasn’t in the race anymore.

“So I thought I was doing a podium until the last lap where I actually looked at the board and I was P4, but yeah, I mean, there were really strong.

“Max of course, we expected him to be strong. We expected Checo also, but I don’t know what happened for him and the two McLarens, too. 

“So there were no surprises. It was all as expected, but it was the maximum we could do today.

“No, he slowed down at one point no? Exit of Turn 14. I think it was the VSC yeah, he basically stopped on the left and we all overtook him.

 “That’s what it was I thought Max was out of the race at that moment it was just confusing for me.”