After surviving early pressure and attacks from Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc looked in control of the French GP until the first round of pit stops. When Red Bull decided to bring Verstappen in for an undercut attempt, Leclerc stayed out and started to push in order to stay ahead of the Red Bull.
But a costly mistake at turn 11 saw the Monegasque have a snap of sudden oversteer on the corner exit meant he span out and crashed in the tyre barriers, putting him out of the race and clearing the way for another Verstappen victory. It is the third time in 2022 that Leclerc has retired from a race while in the lead – albeit this time due to his own mistake rather than reliability woes.
Speaking to media at the circuit during the race – including MotorLAT – Leclerc confirmed that his crash was not related to any car issue, dismissing claims that it might have been an ongoing throttle issue related to his late problems in Austria.
“No, it wasn’t. At least I don’t know yet if it is, but no, it doesn’t look like it is, it was just a mistake.”
He said his emotional outburst on the radio afterwards was in frustration due to his luck and driving standards this season. He says that while he’s performing “at the highest level” of his career in 2022, it shouldn’t come with “loads of mistakes”. He reckons he lost 25 points at today’s French GP due to his “likely” victory, and also accounted for seven points lost in the Emilia Romagna GP, when he spun out while chasing Sergio Perez.
“I didn’t know I had my radio on, but obviously extremely frustrating. I feel like I’m performing at probably the highest level of my career since the beginning of the season, but there is no point performing at a very high level if then I do loads of mistakes. 32 points [lost] overall. 25 today I think it was likely that we were going to win this race, because we were fast. And seven in Imola with my mistake.
“So yeah, we’ll count back, and if there are 32 points missing, then I know it’s coming from me, and that I did not deserve to win the championship.
“For the second half of the season, I need to get on top of these things if I want to be world champion. I will believe until the end and we’ll count at the end, but of course it doesn’t look great.”
Max Verstappen now has a 63-point lead over Charles Leclerc, with the Dutchman on 233 points against 170 for the Ferrari driver.
Leclerc explained the dynamic of the crash, which was caused by “inconsistent” car balance due to the very hot track temperatures at Paul Ricard.
“It’s been a very tricky balance all weekend. I like to have oversteer, but whenever there is this heat, it makes it very difficult to be consistent. I have not been very consistent, and I paid the price of doing one big mistake during the race.”
As for the race before the unfortunate incident, Leclerc said it was “under control, but probably not enough” given his crash, but says he and Ferrari had the pace to win “for sure”:
“[It was] under control, but probably not enough, because I put the car in the wall. I felt like we had the pace to win the race today, that’s for sure.”
Despite his Ferrari not looking severely damaged, the Monegasque couldn’t get back on track. He said this was due to a clutch issue, but that it was a “detail” and that he shouldn’t “put cars in the wall”:
“I tried, but there was something with the clutch not working, and I couldn’t reverse, which was a shame. I saw the car and the car was actually not too damaged, it could still run.
“But this is a detail, honestly. First of all, I probably need to not put cars in the wall, and then it should work better.”
Asked on how he is going to come back from this situation and regroup before the Hungarian GP, he said he will stay at home and just go out whenever it is the time for his Budapest flight, saying he wants “to stay alone”:
“Honestly, I think I’m gonna close myself at home, and go out whenever I have the plane to go to Budapest, but I just want to stay alone,” he concluded.