F1 world in disbelief over 'awful' moment at French Grand Prix

Pictured right, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is left shattered after crashing out while leading the French GP.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was left shattered after crashing out while leading the French GP. Pic: F1/Twiitter

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has seen his Formula One championship hopes slip further away after a shocking incident while leading the French Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen capitalised on his rival's costly "mistake" to claim victory in the race and take a huge stride towards a second consecutive F1 world title.

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Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton finished second for Mercedes in his 300th grand prix, with teammate George Russell third to secure their first podium double of the campaign.

However, it was an incident involving Leclerc at the halfway stage of the race that left the Ferrari ace screaming out in anguish, leaving fans and commentators in a state of disbelief.

Leclerc had led from pole and looked on course for victory until he spun out and slammed into a tyre barrier at the 11th corner.

The Monegasque driver let out a guttural scream of despair after seeing his hopes go up in smoke, leaving fans shattered for the 24-year-old.

Leclerc initially blamed an issue with his throttle but took full responsibility for the mistake after the race.

"I think I am 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 said.

"If we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season I will know where they are coming from," he added, referring also to his crash at Imola.

"It's unacceptable. I just need to get on top of those things."

Referring to his scream of anguish after the incident, Leclerc said he was unaware he was on team radio at the time.

“I would have preferred to keep my frustrations to myself. I didn’t know the radio was on," Leclerc said.

Max Verstappen tightens grip on championship

Verstappen's victory on a hot Sunday afternoon at Le Castellet was his seventh of the season and 27th of the Dutch driver's career.

It also left him a hefty 63 points - more than two race wins - clear of closest rival Leclerc at the top with 10 rounds remaining.

Back in the pack, Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth, in the familiar position of being a couple of places behind his McLaren teammate Lando Norris.

"I think we had really good pace from the start, I was putting pressure on Charles," said the Dutch 24-year-old, who also won at the southern Circuit Paul Ricard last year.

"Following around here, with this heat, the tyres are overheating a lot so I could never really go for a move - only once."

Leclerc had led away cleanly from pole position, with Verstappen close behind but needing six laps before he could get close enough to attempt a move.

While he pulled closer on the straights, Leclerc had an advantage through the corners and managed to remain just out of reach.

Seen here, Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the French Grand Prix.
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the French Grand Prix. Pic: Getty

The Ferrari then appeared to be pulling away, but with some concern about tyre wear, as Verstappen made his first pitstop.

And then it all changed on lap 18 after Leclerc's crash.

The safety car was deployed briefly but from then on Verstappen was able to do his race and look after the tyres without much trouble.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez finished fourth, losing out to Russell three laps from the end and complaining over the radio that the Briton had repeatedly gone off.

Carlos Sainz was fifth for Ferrari after starting on the back row due to engine penalties and storming back through the field with a bonus point for fastest lap.

Sainz could have finished higher, having got himself up into the podium places, but the Spaniard had to serve a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in the pits.

Fernando Alonso was sixth for Renault-owned Alpine, ahead of Norris.

Alpine's Esteban Ocon was eighth, Ricciardo ninth and Lance Stroll took the final point in 10th for Aston Martin.

with AAP

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