The Monegasque had controlled the opening phase of the race from pole position but gifted an easy victory to main title rival Max Verstappen when he ran wide in his Ferrari and smashed into the Turn 11 barriers at the end of Lap 17. 

Leclerc initially appeared to blame a throttle issue for the incident, but later took full responsibility, admitting he “just lost the rear” coming out of the corner. 

Is this Mercedes' best chance to win a race in 2022? | Crash.net F1

“Technically we need to check [but] I think it was just a mistake,” said Leclerc. “Tried to take too much around the outside and probably put a wheel somewhere dirty. 

“It’s my fault and if I keep doing mistakes like this then I deserve to not win the championship. 

“The level is very high this year, I’ve been performing at a high level, but if I keep doing these mistakes then it’s pointless to be at a high level.”

It marks the third time this season that Leclerc has retired while leading this season, though two of his DNFs were caused by engine failures.

 

The only notable mistake Leclerc has made aside from France came at Imola, when he spun out of third place while chasing down Sergio Perez’s Red Bull. He later recovered to sixth but dropped valuable points to Verstappen. 

Verstappen’s seventh victory from 12 races compounded the catastrophic blow to Leclerc’s fading title hopes. 

Leclerc led the championship by 46 points after the Australian Grand Prix but now finds himself with a mountain to climb, having fallen a huge 63 points behind Verstappen, who remains on course to win a second world title. 

“I'm losing too many points,” Leclerc added. "Seven in Imola, 25 here because we probably were the strongest car on track today. 

“So, if we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season I will know from where they are coming from. And, it is unacceptable. I just need to get on top of those things."