You have to feel for Charles Leclerc. Off the back of finishing fourth at the Singapore Grand Prix, a race his Ferrari teammate won, the Monégasque once again finished in the same spot at the Japanese Grand Prix, having thought he was about to reach the chequered flag in a podium position.
It all stemmed from Sergio Perez retiring from the race. When he saw Checo’s Red Bull RB19 pulling into the pits to retire, he thought he’d actually seen the Mexican’s teammate Max Verstappen, the race’s eventual winner.
“Yeah I didn’t even follow what Max did because I saw him stopping at the Safety Car or after the Safety Car,” Leclerc explained.
“I don't know what happened there and I thought he wasn’t in the race anymore.
“So I thought I was doing a podium until the last lap where I actually looked at the board and I was P4, but yeah, I mean, there were really strong.
“Max of course, we expected him to be strong. We expected Checo also, but I don’t know what happened for him and the two McLarens, too.
“So there were no surprises. It was all as expected, but it was the maximum we could do today.
“No, he slowed down at one point no? Exit of Turn 14. I think it was the VSC yeah, he basically stopped on the left and we all overtook him.
“That’s what it was I thought Max was out of the race at that moment it was just confusing for me.”
Driving an F1 car, especially at a track like Suzuka with its daunting 130R corner, is a rather taxing business, so mistaking one car for another that looks just like it besides some tiny race numbers seems entirely forgivable.