Leclerc unsure over tyre choice as he admits Verstappen had 'something more' in sprint

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Ferrari's tyre strategy could be key to preventing Max Verstappen from cutting into Charles Leclerc's championship lead after Red Bull's reigning world champion triumphed in the sprint at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Having been passed by Leclerc at the start, pole-sitter Verstappen ensured he will start Sunday's 63-lap race first on the grid after overtaking Leclerc on the penultimate lap of the 21-lap sprint.

Leclerc and the raucous home Ferrari fans were denied a victory to cheer as his right front tyre grained in the closing laps, Verstappen taking advantage by sweeping around the outside into Tamburello.

It meant Verstappen collected eight points while Leclerc took seven to extend his championship lead to 40 points, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz his closest challenger after finishing fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez in third.

Ferrari, like most of the grid, were on the soft tyres for the sprint, but Leclerc is unsure what compound they will initially select on Sunday after his fast start resulted in that critical degradation.

He told Sky Sports: "I pushed hard at the beginning to try not to be too vulnerable with Max having the DRS behind and I felt like I paid the price of doing that at the end of the race.

"It felt also like they had maybe something more today and he kept it until the end of the race and overtook me when it mattered.

"We'll work on ourselves for tomorrow and try to maximise our package and hopefully the same start as today without the degradation that we had at the end.

"I think with today's data it will help us make the right decision for tomorrow, but whether we will go for the hard compound or not I'm not sure yet."

Only three drivers went with the medium compound for the sprint, including the Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen (eighth) and Mick Schumacher (10th), both of whom had impressive pace in the final laps.

And Verstappen conceded he may not enjoy the same fortune on Sunday with the harder compounds set to play a more prominent role.

"The start was very bad. I don't know exactly what happened or why it was so bad, just too much wheelspin," he said at the post-race presentation.

"After that we had to stay calm. It initially looked like Charles was having a bit more pace but I think he ran out of tyres and we could close the gap and go for the move into turn 2.

"I know tomorrow it might be again a bit different, but for sure today it worked out for us to be on this compound, so I'm very happy to have a clean sprint race in the end.

"I'm happy about today, but I know it might be different tomorrow with those other tyre compounds coming into play."

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