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Verstappen reveals qualifying mode staved off late Leclerc attack

Verstappen reveals qualifying mode staved off late Leclerc attack

F1 News

Verstappen reveals qualifying mode staved off late Leclerc attack

Verstappen reveals qualifying mode staved off late Leclerc attack

F1 champion Max Verstappen has revealed only a series of "qualifying laps" allowed him to stay out of the clutches of Charles Leclerc and clinch a crucial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix victory.

As in Bahrain a week previously, Verstappen and Leclerc treated the F1 audience to a thrilling duel, with the Red Bull driver gaining revenge on his Ferrari rival who had held sway in Sakhir.

On this occasion at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, a late VSC appeared to play into Verstappen's hands, allowing him to pull within range of Leclerc.

Both used the circuit's unique characteristics and powerful DRS to dice for the lead before Verstappen's nous allowed him to make the vital, race-winning pass with four laps remaining.

It was then a case of doing enough to thwart Leclerc, even though he had DRS on numerous occasions over the closing stages, with the Monégasque finishing 0.5secs behind at the chequered flag.

Asked as to the keys to his success, particularly late on, Verstappen said: "Qualifying laps!

"It was tough. I didn't really feel that happy on the medium [in the first stint of the race]. All the time, when you would get close to the car ahead the tyres would die.

"So there was not much racing going on there. It was a little bit frustrating to just sit there and wait for the right lap to pit so you could go onto the other [hard] tyres."

Verstappen revelled in hard-tyre switch

Nicholas Latifi's crash on lap 17 forced both leader Leclerc and second-placed Verstappen into making a stop, taking on the hard tyre the Dutch driver preferred.

"As soon as we went on to the hard tyre I had a much better feeling," added Verstappen. "So then I tried to stay close with Charles after the safety car restart, just trying to keep the gap more or less the same.

"That was basically it, you know, just trying to match the lap times, trying to get a bit closer, then he was pulling away a bit [but] I got a bit closer again, and then we had the VSC at the end."

F1 champion forced into flat-out racing

Despite question marks over how the tyres would react following a five-lap VSC stint to recover the stricken cars of Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren and Fernando Alonso's Alpine, Verstappen knew he had a shot at the win.

"It seemed like we had quite a good first few laps on that restart," said Verstappen.

"I had a good feeling with the car and the tyres were still holding on quite well through the high speed. And, of course, I then had a few good opportunities.

"But Charles really played it smart in the last corner, so it was not easy for me to get by.

"I then had to line myself up again to have another go at it. Eventually, I had the go and I got ahead.

"But then once I was ahead it was really like four laps flat out trying to stay ahead because Charles was consistently in my DRS. So yeah, it was quite tough out there."

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