Charles Leclerc battled through an illness – the details of which he joked “you don’t want to know – on his way to improving to sixth place on the Italian Grand Prix grid.
Leclerc had to prematurely end his FP2 session earlier on Saturday due to an issue, radioing his Ferrari team and informing it that he’d let it know the reason when he returned to the garage.
It later transpired that Leclerc suddenly felt unwell during the session and that it was something that he battled throughout the sprint race.
He was still able to pass his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz at the start of the race and benefit from Pierre Gasly’s retirement to finish in sixth place.
I've not felt great today so happy to do well in the sprint. Moving higher than P5 in the race will be tough but I'll do everything I can. pic.twitter.com/BQNe4jh8MV
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) September 11, 2021
“I’ve known better days, physically it’s not great today,” Leclerc admitted after the sprint race.
“But the most important is that, I delivered 100% of myself in the car, and felt quite good in the car so all good.”
When asked by The Race if the adrenaline of racing allows you to forget your illness briefly, Leclerc replied: “Yeah, it depends on what you have. Sometimes it’s difficult to forget.”
When quizzed on the exact nature of his illness, the 2019 Italian GP winner said he wouldn’t “go into details” and as he didn’t “think you want to know”.
Though Leclerc got past him, team-mate Sainz said he was relieved to participate in the sprint race at all after he shunted his Ferrari into the barriers at the Ascari Chicane during FP2.
“It was a pretty heavy impact so I was scared that the chassis was going to be damaged because the crash felt very big,” Sainz said.
“As you could see on the onboard, there was lot of G, a lot of shock and impact.
“But the mechanics did an incredible job again. Changed the front suspension and brakes and everything and I could get back out.”
Leclerc hopes he’ll be in better shape for tomorrow’s race, where Ferrari is aiming to cling onto its third place in the constructors’ championship.
McLaren has Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris starting from second and third – the team’s best ‘qualifying’ position since the 2012 Brazilian GP.
Leclerc starts from fifth ahead of Sainz, and Ferrari now only has an advantage of 10.5 points over McLaren in the standings after Ricciardo added a point for this third-place finish in the sprint race.
“For tomorrow, it should be a bit more interesting with the tyre degradation because the degradation seems to be quite high here,” Leclerc said when asked about the grand prix.
“We’ll try and maximise the car and hopefully do a good result.”