(Reuters) – Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur has rejected ‘harsh’ criticism of the Formula One team’s Monaco Grand Prix pace while apologising to Charles Leclerc for a mistake that cost him a likely first home podium.

Leclerc qualified third fastest in Monaco on Saturday but received a three-place grid penalty for unnecessarily impeding McLaren’s Lando Norris in the tunnel, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon promoted.

The top three finished in the same order on Sunday, with Max Verstappen winning for dominant Red Bull and Fernando Alonso second for Aston Martin. Leclerc was sixth and Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz eighth.

Ferrari have had only one podium, a third place in Azerbaijan with Leclerc, in six races and the sport’s most successful team are fourth overall.

Vasseur said Monaco, where overtaking is extremely difficult, was hardly representative and Spain next weekend would provide a clearer picture.

“I don’t know if you are tough like this with Mercedes when they are behind us in qualifying,” the Frenchman told reporters when asked about the lack of pace in a video briefing on Tuesday.

“We were P3 in quali, less than one tenth off the pole position, two hundredths off the first row. I don’t think it was a disaster.

“I think we made some mistakes throughout the weekend, team and drivers together, but to say that the pace was not there in Monaco I think is a bit harsh with us…to be able to fight for pole position for me was a satisfaction.

“The circumstances and the race scenario is the reason we did not show any pace. But nobody can say we were not on the pace,” he added.

A stewards’ enquiry on Saturday found Ferrari failed to give Leclerc, who had been on pole in Monaco for the two previous seasons, any warning about Norris’ approach until he was directly behind the Monegasque.

Vasseur said that was a ‘proper mistake’.

“I think it was not just a matter of communication it was probably focus,” he said.

“We made a mistake as a team and I know the effort that the drivers are putting in the quali and the intensity of the quali. At the end of the quali I apologised to Charles. I think it’s the right way to manage it in the team.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan – April 28, 2023 Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur arrives ahead of practice REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov