'I put everything in the bin' – Leclerc says German GP error ‘completely my fault’
A roller coaster weekend in Hockenheim for Charles Leclerc ultimately ended in ignominy after the Ferrari driver skated off the track and into the barriers in the final corner – with Leclerc accepting full responsibility for the crash that saw him end up stuffed, slightly embarrassingly, into a Mercedes advertising banner.
The crash ended a German Grand Prix weekend that had promised much but delivered precious little for Leclerc, who had looked favourite for pole in qualifying on Saturday before a fuel pressure issue ruled him out of Q3.
Following that disappointment, however, the Monegasque was then enjoying a superb race, and having started 10th, a brilliant strategy call from Ferrari saw him pit for fresh intermediate tyres under a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 15, putting him out in P4 and lapping some two seconds faster than rivals Valtteri Bottas and eventual race winner Max Verstappen in front of him at times.
A second stop for slick soft tyres under another Virtual Safety Car saw Leclerc then move up to second place, the Ferrari driver apparently in a prime position to challenge for the first win of his career. But lapping slowly in the VSC conditions, Leclerc’s Ferrari SF90 had a snap of oversteer going into Turn 16, with the 21-year-old then sliding off the track, across the smooth drag strip tarmac and into the barriers, where he tried in vain to drive the car out.
“Big mistake on my side,” said Leclerc. “I’m very sorry for the team… but overall I think it was a great race until the mistake. But one mistake is enough to be out of the race.”
Leclerc’s face of thunder in his post-race interviews suggested that he was struggling to find positives after a weekend that, on paper, had totally fallen apart for the Monegasque.
Today overall was a good race, until the mistake, then all the efforts were thrown into the bin
Nonetheless, he confessed to feeling buoyed by the pace Ferrari had shown in Hockenheim, with the team having led all three free practice sessions, while team mate Sebastian Vettel was able to weather the changeable conditions to rocket from P20 on the grid to second at the flag.
“I’m happy about this weekend,” said Leclerc. “We were quick, then of course in qualifying things didn’t go our way.
“I think that's a few races now that we are quite strong, especially in qualifying, so I'm very happy that we have this form. As I said at the last race, in the dry, I think we can improve a little bit on the race pace.
“Today overall was a good race, obviously, until the mistake,” he added. “It’s a shame for the team. They did everything right, the strategy was amazing, they put me in a position to fight for the win and I put everything in the bin. So I feel sorry for them and all the fans that support us... but I think there are quite a bit of positives to take back home.”
The result meant that Leclerc, just three points off his team mate in fifth place when he arrived in Hockenheim, now sits 21 points back. There was some joy to be had for Leclerc at Hockenheim, however, after he got to congratulate brother Arthur on his win in the German F4 series earlier in the day.