Charles Leclerc admitted to his costly mistake as Max Verstappen opened up a 63 point Championship lead.
After qualifying on pole position and defending his race lead from a charging Verstappen, Ferrari’s Leclerc saw victory in Sunday’s French Grand Prix dissolve following a mistake that put his car into the tire wall and out of the race. Afterwards Leclerc admitted it was driver error, a costly mistake that allowed World Championship leader Max Verstappen to ease his Red Bull into a comfortable lead and cruise to his seventh win of the season.
Behind Verstappen, the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completed the podium, benefitting from Leclerc’s retirement, combined with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz having to start from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty. The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez had been on course to take third place before a team communication error at the end of the final virtual safety car period caused him to slow, allowing Russell to overtake.
“Everyone makes mistakes but this one was very public and costly,” said Mika Hakkinen. “I have had the same experience, for example when I went off while leading the Italian Grand Prix in 1999, and it is a really difficult experience. You know what you have done, thrown away the win and you have to accept responsibility.”
“Leclerc is a fantastic driver and had driven perfectly until lap 18. He took a lot of pressure from Verstappen, but the Ferrari was very good in the quick corners and he was able to keep the Red Bull behind. The way the Ferrari and Red Bull were so closely matched around Paul Ricard was brilliant, but Leclerc’s mistake ended the battle. From then on it was easy for Verstappen, he controlled the race, looked after his tires and took another important step towards the championship title.”
“What’s important now is how Leclerc responds to this mistake. As he said after the race, he has lost 32 points due to mistakes in Imola and Paul Ricard, and he cannot afford to continue doing that if he wants to beat Verstappen. On top of that, Ferrari have also had strategy and reliability issues. What’s important is that Leclerc recognises that he has the talent and the car needed to win races, and he just needs to focus on the positives and take each weekend as it comes. One race at a time. That’s all you can do, concentrate on each race, focus on doing everything right.”
“In this sport you have to keep learning, working with the team, doing whatever you need to do. One very positive aspect of the weekend was the way Carlos Sainz helped Leclerc to get pole position by giving him a tow during qualifying. Team work of that kind is essential and with Carlos driving so well at the moment Leclerc has a strong, capable team-mate.”
“It was good to see Hamilton and Russell on the podium together for the first time, but although Mercedes looked quite good in the race their car still doesn’t have the pace of either the Red Bull or Ferrari. At this point in the season it’s clear that Mercedes has solved many of the issues associated with the porpoising we saw early in the year, and on a smooth circuit like Paul Ricard they were consistent. But the gap to Ferrari and Red Bull remains in terms of outright pace.”
“Finally, good to see both Alpine and McLaren finish in the points, Alpine in their important home race and McLaren because every point is important in their fight to finish fourth in the World Championship for Constructors. Both teams have strong driver pairings and they lead the battle behind the Big Three teams most weekends. With only four points separating them after 12 races, it could hardly be closer, and I naturally enjoy watching my former World Championship-winning team in their battle with Alpine each weekend!”