Charles Leclerc’s failure on lap 19 of the French Grand Prix presented second-placed Max Verstappen with victory on a silver platter. Worse still, it is the fourth time that the Monegasque has started from pole position and not won. The lead of the defending champion from the Netherlands has now grown to 63 points.
The statistics underscore the whole drama of the season for the Scuderia from Maranello. Leclerc has already been eliminated three times while in the lead. In Barcelona and Baku with engine failure. In France after a mistake of his own. At least that’s what the Monegasse claims after locking himself in his driver’s cabin for several minutes.
“I show the best performance in my career, but when I make mistakes like that, it’s really bad,” Leclerc admits self-critically. “Seven points in Imola and 25 points here. If you end up losing the World Cup by 32 points, then I know where that comes from. I have to get that under control.”
In turn eleven he loses control of his Ferrari. “I was trying to push and lost the rear,” he explains. “It was a difficult weekend for me, I had problems with the balance of the car. Then it is difficult to set fast laps and I made a mistake at the wrong moment.”
Alone: Not everyone believes the representation of the World Cup second. Reason: Immediately after the impact, Leclerc speaks on the pit radio about a stuck accelerator pedal. This is reminiscent of the Austrian GP two weeks ago where he struggled with the same phenomenon in the final stages of the race. Then he screams his heart out.
A former head of motorsport, who does not want to be named, says to Newsabc: “Normally, the first reaction on the pit radio is always the real one.” Ex-Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg on Servus-TV: “It was a bit strange. Maybe he wants to protect Ferrari too.”
Nico Rosberg thinks so too. The 2016 World Champion on Sky: “I would be surprised if it really was Leclerc’s fault. If I were him, I’d urge you to look it up again. Maybe his aerodynamics reacted incorrectly to a gust of wind or he had another problem.”
In any case, the former Mercedes star does not want to believe that Leclerc himself should have made such a beginner’s mistake. “If you want to beat Max Verstappen, you can’t afford something like that. Ferrari actually had the better car. You have to drive that home.”
At Ferrari, however, they stick to the driving error of their top star: “The statement on the radio had nothing to do with the error,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto Leclerc pushes the buck. “Without going into more detail, but that was just the procedure for engaging reverse gear.”
Sainz strategy also raises eyebrows
Nevertheless: The Italians live up to their malicious nickname as “Schluderia Ferrari”, at least in the case of Carlos Sainz. First they send him into the pit lane after a tire change, even though an opponent is rushing in from behind. This sets a 5 second penalty. Then they make themselves look ridiculous with a public discussion on the pit radio about a second stop.
What’s more, hardly any experts understand why Sainz, while in third place, was ordered to change tires for the second time in order to finish fifth.
Rosberg asks, “What the hell are they doing there? I shake my head again at the Ferrari strategists. Carlos was in the middle of a big fight on the track and the whole team isn’t watching because they’re so busy doing their strategy calculations. It’s time they made some serious changes there.”
Ex-F1 driver Christian Klien says on the Servus-TV microphone: “Sainz was the best strategist at Ferrari.” Nico Hülkenberg adds: “The whole thing isn’t rocket science, but rather easy to see – even from the outside and also from Carlos even while driving.”
Alone: Team boss Binotto puts the Scuderia’s situation nicely: “It was the right call.” And: “I know that Charles is disappointed, but there are also positive aspects that we have to look at in front of Hungary. Our package was great, both drivers were very quick on the track. Now we just have to look ahead: In Hungary, a one-two is our goal.”
The Ferrari race director hasn’t even written off the World Championship yet: “It looks more complicated, but not impossible. We will enjoy it all the more if we win in the end.”
It is doubtful whether that is really realistic after a day of racing like Sunday in France.