Yesterday’s French Grand Prix result saw a top three that could have been from so many races last season: two Mercedes drivers and one from Red Bull.
Because at Circuit Paul Ricard the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell achieved their team’s first double podium of the season, flanking Drivers’ Championship leader and race winner Max Verstappen.
But this wasn’t an example of an exemplary display to stay ahead of the chasing pack from Verstappen, nor was it a stunning Mercedes drive to hold off the Prancing Horses of Ferrari.
It was another Grand Prix where Ferrari and Charles Leclerc blew a lead by crashing out under little pressure.
Other than the state of play, whereby the Monegasque youngster who once led the championship and is now watching as Verstappen speeds off into the distance towards his second title, there’s little to suggest just why Leclerc lost control on lap 18 from the lead.
In the corner which carries the highest speed around the French track, he looked to have just overdone it after being told to push by his team.
After spinning into the barriers Leclerc bellowed an emotionally raw “Noooooo” over the team radio before confirming he was unhurt.
It is a bizarre spot around Paul Ricard to lose the back end but that’s exactly what Leclerc did in the latest of a series of mistakes that have hampered his title challenge.
From the resulting safety car Verstappen was able to take the lead. He stayed there, and despite some smart manoeuvring from Russell on Sergio Perez after a late vertical safety car, the Red Bulls – as did the Mercedes – looked comfortable.
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz showed the pace and strength of the Ferrari with his rise to fifth place from 19th – a drive that gave the team valuable points in the Constructors’ Championship after the Silver Arrows secured 32 of their own and closed the gap to second.
“Mistake, mistake,” Leclerc said of the incident. “I think I’m performing at my highest level in my career but if I keep doing those mistakes then it’s pointless.
“I’m losing too many points – seven I think in Imola, 25 here – because honestly we were the strongest car.
“So if we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season I will know where they’re coming from. It’s unacceptable. I need to get on top of those things.”
The number of mistakes Leclerc has made is unacceptable – combined with various issues as a result of engine failures and electronic problems – and he’s just seven points clear of Perez in third and 27 clear of Russell in fifth.
This was the first Grand Prix after the half-way point in this 22-race season, and there’s a long way to go – including a summer break in which teams can work on their cars.
But it seems Ferrari and Leclerc need to look inward at existing problems before they go about trying to solve ones that don’t yet exist.
The 24-year-old sounded pained at the thought he’d made yet another mistake, and there’s no doubt throwing away such a good opportunity hasn’t helped.
“It was a genuine driver error,” Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said. But the reality is it’s another one that’s further distanced Ferrari from a potential first driver title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.