Leclerc confuses the duel for the title
Mattia Binotto, Charles Leclerc, French GP 2022
Even Ferrari’s closest rivals and Charles Leclerc regretted Sunday’s accident which spoiled a thrilling one-on-one with championship leader Max Verstappen.
The Monaco-born driver was leading the French GP at Paul Ricard when he lost control and hit the barriers.
An initial radio call about the throttle raised suspicions that Leclerc had in fact suffered a technical problem – but the 24-year-old quickly accepted the blame.
“If we end up losing the championship, I know what the reason was,” he said.
Team boss Mattia Binotto, however, defended his driver – although he denied there had been a problem with the throttle.
“The reference to the accelerator was about his attempt to back out of the barrier. Unfortunately, the nose was completely jammed,” Binotto explained.
“But Charles is a champion and no one in this team will ever question our trust in him,” he told Sky Italia.
“We have lost many points in different ways, and we will gain points in other ways,” added Binotto.
“Let’s move on. It makes no sense to discuss a mistake by a champion like him. We are already thinking about next week.”
In the points standings, however, defending champion Verstappen now has a 63-point lead with the summer break looming.
“I mean, it’s a great lead,” said the Dutchman. “But a lot of things can happen and I just want to stay focused.
“We still need more pace over one lap. I also think Budapest is going to be a bit more difficult for us. I think Ferrari is going to be really, really quick.”
“Again, it’s about scoring points every race, even when it’s not your day,” added Verstappen.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, meanwhile, even had some sympathy for the inconsolable and contrite Leclerc.
“It’s a shame what happened to Leclerc,” said the Austrian. “It would have been a high level fight in which we would have probably had an advantage.
“It’s also a shame that before that he already retired twice because of engine problems. It’s a shame that mistakes happen again in such a big duel.”
Team boss Christian Horner confirmed: “It’s a real shame that we don’t know how the race would have ended.
“But I wouldn’t call Leclerc a ‘crasher’. These two put a lot of pressure on each other, driving cars beyond their abilities.
“So we consider Charles’ bad luck to be our luck, but over the course of the season the pendulum will swing first one way and then the other.”
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz also defended the 24-year-old.
“I make mistakes, Charles made mistakes and Verstappen will make mistakes,” the Spaniard told DAZN.
“We all go to the limit and that’s what happens sometimes,” he added.
However, Ferrari also makes unforced errors – such as Sainz’ penalized “dangerous exit” from a pit stop and also a seemingly failed strategy that arguably cost him the podium.
“The biggest support for Red Bull in this championship is Ferrari,” Ralf Schumacher told Sky Deutschland.
And another former driver, Christian Klien, told Servus TV: “Sainz was the best strategist today.”
Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, joked: “It’s not rocket science. Even us on the outside and even Carlos in the cockpit could see it was a mistake.”
Again, however, it was Sainz who defended the Ferrari team.
“We get heavily criticized for things that happen to other teams in exactly the same way. But we’re not the disaster people always say we are.”