By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) -Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc blamed himself on Sunday for a French Grand Prix crash that left his Formula One title hopes disappearing into the distance.
The Monegasque screamed in rage and frustration over the radio after he spun mid-corner and plunged into the tyre barrier at the 11th corner, Le Beausset, on the 18th of 53 scheduled laps.
He had been leading from pole position and while he remained second in the championship there are a mighty 63 points now separating Leclerc from Red Bull’s race winner Max Verstappen with 10 races to go.
“A mistake. I’ve been saying I think I’m performing at my highest level in my career but if I keep doing those mistakes then it’s pointless to perform at a very high level. I’m losing too many points,” he told Sky Sports television.
“We probably were the strongest car on track today so if we lose the Championship by 32 points at the end of the season I will know from where they are coming from.
“And it’s unacceptable, I just need to get on top of those things.
“To me it’s a mistake and that’s it… it’s just trying to push too much and I lost the rear. It’s been a very difficult weekend for me.
“I did a mistake at the wrong moment.”
The crash brought out an immediate safety car while the car was removed and barriers repaired.
It was Leclerc’s third retirement while leading a race this season after Spain and Azerbaijan.
Sunday was also the seventh time this season that Leclerc had started from pole position but he has only won two of those races from the top slot.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said the crash was “a genuine driver error” and Leclerc’s radio comments about the throttle failing referred to a failed attempt to reverse out of the barrier.
“It was just a mistake, it happens (just) as we may have reliability issues,” he said.
“I think what I said to Charles was that we make our lives a bit more difficult, but we will enjoy it more in the future if we turn it round.”
Hamilton finished second and George Russell third, a great 2,3 for Mercedes.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge)
Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – July 22, 2022 Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during practice REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier