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Did the 2022 title battle take a decisive turn at the Spanish Grand Prix? Time will tell, after Charles Leclerc – heading the standings by 19 points going into the race – retired from the lead on Lap 27 of 66, allowing rival Max Verstappen to claim his fourth win of the season and, with it, the championship lead.
Q2 of qualifying was the only session or segment of the weekend that Leclerc hadn’t led heading into the race, with the Monegasque then doing everything right when the lights went out on Sunday, quickly moving into an early race lead as Verstappen lost time after sliding into the gravel on Turn 9.
But Leclerc began to slow on Lap 27, screaming into his radio, “No, no, no… what happened? I lost power,” before being boxed into retirement. And although Leclerc was trying to look at the positives when he faced the media, he warned that Ferrari “cannot afford” incidents like this in the future.
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“I don’t know anything more than what happened basically,” said Leclerc. “I had no indications before and then it just broke, lost the power completely. So it’s a shame. In those moments I believe that there’s nothing else I can do but look at the positives and there are plenty this weekend. There’s the qualifying pace, the race pace and most importantly, the tyre management that has been a weakness in the last two races.
“I think we have definitely found something this weekend on that, so it gives me the confidence for the season. But on the other hand, we’ll look at this issue, and we cannot afford for this to happen many times during the season, so we need to find the problem.”
Leclerc now trails Verstappen by six points in the drivers’ standings, with Red Bull moving 26 points clear of the Scuderia as Verstappen led home team mate Sergio Perez. But Leclerc said he was unconcerned with the title picture at this stage of the season, as he now looks ahead to his home race in Monaco in seven days’ time.
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“The lead of the championship will go down to basically nothing, or maybe we will lose it actually,” said Leclerc, speaking to the press as the race was raging behind him. “But that’s fine. I’m not looking at it. What is the most important is the overall performance, and performance-wise, we are performing very well. So I can’t wait to go at home next week and hopefully we’ll have a great result.”
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