Charles Leclerc insists his previous near-misses in Bahrain and Austria did not play on his mind during the closing stages of last weekend’s Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix.

Leclerc sealed his maiden grand prix victory and Ferrari’s first win of the 2019 season at Spa, having controlled the race from pole position and fended off a late attack from championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

The Monegasque previously came close to taking his first F1 win in Bahrain but saw his hopes dashed by a cruel late engine problem, while he led much of the Austrian Grand Prix, only for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to pass him late on.

“What happened in Bahrain was never in my mind during the race,” Leclerc said.

“Of course, Austria was a little bit different because Verstappen was catching very quickly and I felt that Lewis had quite a bit more pace that we did, especially on the Medium.

“I felt very confident on the Soft, but on the Medium Mercedes picked up the pace and then it was a bit more difficult for us.

“Obviously I did nothing about Austria but I could hear my engineer telling me the gaps every lap and the gap was reducing every lap.

“I was trying to focus on the job, cure the balance of the car and we had some problems with the rear tyres and I was trying to help the rear tyres to be as quick as possible and arrive first and that’s what we did.”

Despite Hamilton being able to reduce a seven-second deficit down to one by the final lap of Sunday’s race, Leclerc said he was not “more nervous” as he felt in control, knowing that the Mercedes driver was too far back to realistically challenge.

“In the position I was, I was just focussing to try and keep Lewis as far as I could from me,” he explained. “And then obviously, if there was an overtake, you rarely think about it before, you just try and deal with it once it’s happening.

“I was, as I said, focussing on my own things. Trying to fix a little bit the balance issues that we had. I had quite a lot of degradation on the rear tyres. I was struggling with that, so I was fully on that to try and gain some pace.

“I wasn’t more nervous,” he added. “I’ve started to get used to being in that situation where I’m first and I’m chased by someone that is quicker.

“Obviously I knew it was Lewis and I knew I could not afford to do any mistakes because he will take the opportunity.

“But yeah, apart from the last lap, he was never really close enough to try something. I was just trying to focus on my own job and finish the race.”

 

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