Charles Leclerc says he joked on his team’s radio on the final lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix that he was suffering from an engine problem.
Leclerc won the opening round of the 2022 Formula 1 season on Sunday, while Ferrari took a one-two finish as Carlos Sainz crossed the line second.
Three years ago in Bahrain, at his second Grand Prix for Ferrari, Leclerc was on course for his maiden F1 win before a technical issue dropped him to third at the checkered flag.
As he closed out the second sector on his final lap in the 2022 edition of the race, Leclerc hopped on the radio to declare that once again he had a problem with his car.
“Something weird with the engine, something weird with the engine,” he said, before declaring “just kidding” moments later.
Talk to Sky F1 after the race, Leclerc said: “I made a little joke on the radio on the last lap saying there was something strange with the engine.
“The engineers, I’m sure, didn’t like it. But it was fun, I had that in mind for the last 10 or 15 laps of the race, hoping there was no reliability issue.
“Then I saw that Max [Verstappen] I was having problems and I was like, ‘Come on, please stay with me until the end’, and it happened.
Leclerc was challenged at various points in the race by Verstappen and was forced to face a safety car restart during the final stages of the race.
However, Verstappen suffered a power unit issue and eventually retired, but Leclerc was unconvinced the Dutchman could have advanced even though his car was healthy.
“I don’t think so, but you never know,” Leclerc said. “On the restart I had a very, very good restart so I think it would have been difficult for him to overtake.
“After that, the pace was very strong. Whenever I had a margin, I knew I could more or less manage the gap behind.