Charles Leclerc says the “huge mess” at the end of Italian Grand Prix qualifying was “definitely not” an intentional tactic from Ferrari to hamper its Formula 1 rival Mercedes.

The 10 remaining Q3 runners left it as late as possible to leave their respective garages to begin their final runs and bunched up at the start of the lap, resulting in farcical scenes as most drivers were unable to cross the line in time before the chequered flag fell.

Leclerc and both Mercedes drivers were among those that failed to complete their final laps, but the Monegasque driver had already set a lap time that enabled him to secure a second straight pole position.

Lewis Hamilton, who missed out on pole by just 0.039s, suggested that Ferrari had purposely “timed out” its rivals knowing it had a lap already good enough for pole in the bag.

But Leclerc rejected the notion, saying: “It was definitely not intentional from our side.

“Obviously there was also Seb that was capable of having the pole position and we obviously didn’t want to sacrifice one car for the pole with the other.

“It was quite tricky. I definitely think that situations like what happened after the second corner shouldn’t happen, there are two cars side-by-side going at 20kph and we couldn’t pass them.

“I think most of the drivers behind wanted to pass but didn’t have the opportunity. This situations have made a big mess towards the end and that’s why some cars didn’t make it to start their laps.”

Ferrari’s initial plan had been for Sebastian Vettel to run first on the opening salvo, before switching its cars around for the final attempt, allowing both of its drivers a chance to benefit from the tow

“The plan was that in the first run Seb was giving me the tow and in the second run I would give him the tow,” Leclerc explained.

“I actually went out of the box in front of him and then there was the huge mess after Turn 1 and 2 and the McLaren and the Renault, they stopped in the middle of the track and we had nowhere to go.

“Seb overtook me there with the mess because obviously we were quite aware that it was quite tight on time and then I stayed basically behind Seb until the last straight where I heard also on the radio ‘you can overtake Seb’, so I overtook him but then I had no time for me either to start the lap.

“It was a shame but I don’t think I could have done much more.”

The FIA is investigating the final lap of qualifying after the drivers had been warned about driving unnecessarily slowly prior to the session in the pursuit to perfect a slipstream.

Similar tactics saw 19 of Formula 3 drivers hit with grid penalties following qualifying on Friday. Asked whether F1 should follow suit by handing out penalties, Leclerc replied:  “If you put a penalty to one, you have to put a penalty to all of the drivers in Q3 really because we were all together.”

 

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