Leclerc apologises for ‘big mistake’ in Hockenheim
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has offered his apologies after crashing out of the Formula 1 German Grand Prix.
Running towards the front of the field, Leclerc slid off the road around mid-distance, shortly after switching from intermediate tyres to slicks.
Correcting a small snap of oversteer as he rounded the penultimate corner, Leclerc straightened the car but was unable to wrestle it back on track as he skated across the drag strip which borders the grand prix circuit.
The Ferrari slid helplessly into the gravel where it became beached, ending Leclerc’s race on a weekend where he appeared to have another shot at a maiden victory.
“It was a great race until the mistake but one mistake is enough to be out of the race and that was completely my fault,” Leclerc explained.
“Looking back at the mistake it was tricky conditions, you very often lose the car in these conditions.”
Though not prepared to blame his retirement on the run off surface, Leclerc did make mention of the drag strip.
“I’m not very convinced about the tarmac there in the exit of the last two corners,” he said.
“This is in no way an excuse of my mistake and I take the full responsibility of it, but we are in Formula 1 and this type of tarmac is just unacceptable for me.
“It’s not like I went stupidly quick out of the track, it was just a small snap and I had to take it back, but I could not when I arrived on the dragster tarmac,” he concluded.
Sebastian Vettel was an unwitting beneficiary of Leclerc’s retirement.
The German had started his home event from last on the grid, carving his way through the field on the opening lap.
A composed drive for the remainder of the day ultimately paid dividends, especially once the four-time champ switched to the dry weather tyres late in proceedings.
“I was not so happy in the beginning,” said Vettel.
“I was very happy with the first lap, and then I was a bit like ‘come on, I need to make some progress here, otherwise the race is slipping out of hand’.
“Obviously it was a lot about surviving, pushing in the right moment,” he added.
“In the end when it started to dry up and mix conditions, I really started to feel confident.
“The first corner was very tricky, a lot of people went off, but I thought ‘okay, here is where I have to hammer it’ because I felt good.
“I always managed to get good speed, get in the DRS, close the gap for the second corner, then get in range so I could pass down the back straight.
“It was quite straight forward to pass. I was quite pleased with that.”
The result is Vettel’s first podium since the Canadian Grand Prix, a weekend which saw him cross the line first only for a time penalty to relegate him to second.
The German has not won a race since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, a drought of 19 races before grand prix wins, the second longest in his career.
He lies fourth in the drivers’ championship, more than 80 points off of Lewis Hamilton who leads that competition.
Leclerc is fifth in the title race, 21 points shy of his team-leader.