A team radio scream of anguish from Leclerc summed up another frustrating day for Ferrari, after the Monegasque driver – who had taken the lead from the post – crashed into a wall at high speed on lap 18.
This is the third time this season that the 24-year-old has failed to finish the race having taken the lead. Leclerc has converted just two of his seven starting points into wins, with the latest gift Verstappen the opportunity to open a 63-point gap in the driver’s championship.
And the reigning Red Bull world champion – after checking with his team to ask if Leclerc was okay – made no mistake as he won his 27th Grand prix and second in a row. next at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“The car was going too fast today,” Verstappen said. “Unfortunately for Charles, I hope he’s okay, but I’ve just done my race and taken care of the tyres.
“I always try to get as many points as possible. Some moves, you see them happening, and sometimes you just have to step back and wait for the end of the race. That’s what we did. .
“There’s a lot more races where you have to score points. In that respect, today was a great day.”
More suffering for Leclerc
His first win since April seems to have put him back in the title race, and the Ferrari driver has made a strong start in France, picking up a good record and starting solidly ahead of Verstappen. .
But disaster struck in lap 18 when Leclerc appeared to lose control of the rear of his car as he entered the 11th quick turn, turning into a wall. A safety vehicle immediately pulled up, but the 24-year-old got out of the vehicle without being immobilized.
“No!” he yelled on the team radio, initially seemingly blaming the throttle problem that nearly cost him the race in Austria, but he later admitted it was his fault.
“I’ve said before that I think I’m at the top of my career but if I keep making these mistakes it’s pointless to perform at a very high level,” Leclerc told Sky Sports.
“If we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season, I’ll know where they’re coming from and that’s unacceptable. I need to get over that.
“It was a very difficult weekend for me. I struggled a lot with the balance of the bike … when it’s warm like this, it’s very difficult to stabilize.”
The Spaniard discussed a potential stop over the team radio ahead of an intense battle with Perez. To overtake the Mexican, Sainz had to go head-to-head with his opponent when his pit team called over the radio to advise on pit stop strategy.
“No no, not now,” Sainz shouted over the team radio, then added, “Come on guys.”
Perez then engaged in another tense battle with Russell, falling behind the Briton with just two laps left after reacting slowly at the end of a virtual safety car.
Russell took the lead and held on to his lead to bring home a fine day for Mercedes, as he forged ahead of Sainz in the drivers’ championship, happy – albeit exhausted. – 16 points behind Hamilton.
“It was a tough race because my drink bottle didn’t work, but it’s a great result as we’ve been way ahead of these guys all weekend,” Hamilton said.
“Reliability is one thing that my team is extremely surprised by sending huge congratulations to the team back to the factories and the team here, without them we wouldn’t have this podium. George also did an incredible job.”