Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco walks through the paddock prior to the qualifying session at the Baku Formula One city circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo: Sergei Grits/AP

BAKU – Charles Leclerc vowed to learn from his experience and come back stronger after finishing a disappointing fifth for Ferrari in Sunday’s action-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Monegasque, in his fourth race with the iconic Italian outfit, said he and the team had decided to save tyres and go for the race fastest lap in the closing stages instead of chasing down the victorious Mercedes team.

Valtteri Bottas grabbed his second win of the season ahead of defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari to regain the lead of the drivers’ title race in a closely-fought contest.

It was Bottas’ second win of the season and lifted him back to the top by a single point thanks to his fastest lap in Melbourne.

Leclerc started eighth on the grid, slipped back to 10th and then fought through the field to lead until, after a very long stint, his original medium tyres were unable to help him stay on top.

Ferrari’s decision to delay bringing him in for his pit stop appeared to have undermined his race.

“I believe there is a reason for me staying out so long,” said Leclerc, whose race had been compromised on Saturday when he crashed in Q2, forcing him to start on Sunday using the medium compound tyre.

“I need to look at the data before commenting because they have a lot more data than I do in the car. I felt I lost a bit of time once Valtteri, Lewis and Seb passed me. We need to look into that.

“I asked is there any possibility for us to come back, they told me no. After that there was no more trying to push to catch them, but just to try and save the tyres and do the fastest lap, when I had the opportunity.

“On the medium we were very, very strong and that’s what the leaders did their longest stint on. It could have been a very positive race, but to be honest there is nothing wrong with Ferrari – just myself yesterday.

“I did a mistake yesterday and will come back from it stronger.”

AFP