Charles Leclerc told to ‘take responsibility’ for costly mistake

Charles Leclerc crashed out of the French Grand Prix, hampering his chances of winning the 2022 Drivers' Championship.

Charles Leclerc has lost 75 points this season from the race lead, after a driver error saw the Monegasque spin-out of the French Grand Prix whilst leading.

It’s the third time this season Leclerc has been forced to retire from the race lead, with his retirements at the Spanish and Azerbaijan Grands Prix due to reliability problems.

As a result, Max Verstappen leads the Drivers’ Championship by 63-points, meaning he could miss the next two races and still have at least an 11-point lead in the standings.

Scuderia Ferrari have also slipped to 82 points behind Red Bull Racing in the Constructors’ Championship, with the Mercedes F1 Team rapidly closing in.

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Since spinning-out at the Circuit Paul Ricard, Leclerc has claimed that the crash was his fault, with it initially looking like the 24-year-old had suffered from a throttle problem.

Double World Champion Mika Hakkinen thinks it’s important for Leclerc to “accept responsibility” for the retirement, having experienced a similar event himself in 1999.

“Everyone makes mistakes but this one was very public and costly,” Hakkinen said in his Unibet column.

“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.

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“You know what you have done, thrown away the win and you have to accept responsibility.”

Before the spin, Leclerc had dealt with pressure from Verstappen superbly, and looked to have the pace to maintain the lead.

Once Leclerc made his mistake, Verstappen cruised to yet another victory, after having a big enough gap to control his tyre degradation.

Hakkinen praised Leclerc for the way he “took a lot of pressure”, but admitted the race was “easy” for Verstappen once Leclerc was out.

“Charles is a fantastic driver and had driven perfectly until lap 18,” Hakkinen said.

“He took a lot of pressure from Max, 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 Charles’ mistake ended the battle. From then on it was easy for Max, he controlled the race, looked after his tyres and took another important step towards the championship title.”

With ten rounds still remaining, Hakkinen wants to see Leclerc “respond to the mistake”.

The former McLaren driver highlighted the significance of the Ferrari driver to overcome his error, with Leclerc being unable to “afford” another costly retirement.

“What’s important now is how Charles responds to this mistake,” Hakkinen warned.

“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 Max.”

“On top of that, Ferrari have also had strategy and reliability issues. What’s important is that Charles 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,” the former McLaren driver advised.

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“In this sport you have to keep learning, working with the team, doing whatever you need to do,” the 53-year-old continued.

“One very positive aspect of the weekend was the way Carlos Sainz helped Charles 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 Charles has a strong, capable team-mate,” Hakkinen concluded.