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Charles Leclerc devastated by retirement, cause, gearbox, Carlos Sainz

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Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was a shock last-minute withdrawal from the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday as Ferrari announced a problem with his car.

With Leclerc, who had damaged his car in a crash at the end of Saturday qualifying, out and his front-row spot vacant, Max Verstappen for Red Bull was left leading the grid for this fifth leg of the Formula One season.

For Monaco-born Leclerc it was a cruel end to his dream of winning his home Grand Prix.

News that his car would not be leaving the pits came just minutes before the start time.

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“Charles will not start the race due to an issue with the left driveshaft which is impossible to fix in time for the start of the race,” Ferrari explained.

It was all the more unexpected as a couple of hours earlier Ferrari had announced repairs had been carried out without a change of gearbox which would have incurred a five-grid penalty on the damage from the accident in the Swimming Pool section 24 hours earlier.

For Leclerc, 23, it was just the latest misfortune at Monaco.

Despite his familiarity with the narrow, unforgiving street circuit his record at his home race remains bleak and pointless.

His ill luck at the Mediterranean jewel in F1’s crown had already resurfaced on Thursday after gearbox problems ruined his opening practice session.

From then on his fortunes flipped. He topped FP2, then qualified in pole for the first time since Mexico in 2019.

But his crash, which ended qualifying prematurely left him anxiously waiting for the all-clear from the mechanics working on his damaged car.

That came on Sunday morning, only for heartache to follow as he made his way around the circuit to the start when he came on the team radio reporting he had a problem, saying “No, no, no – the gearbox guys”.

Back in the pits Ferrari mechanics pounced on the car to see if anything could be done to even allow him to start from the pitlane.

When it became obvious that wasn’t possible, a dejected Leclerc emerged from his stricken car’s cockpit to head for the grid and the pre-race ceremonies, receiving a consoling hug from Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Mystery, however, surrounds the failure with Ferrari revealing that the issue was not the gearbox after all.

F1 returns to Monaco’s glitz & glamour | 03:50

“We need to fully understand what happened,” team boss Mattia Binotto told Sky Sports F1. “The failure is on the driveshaft into the hub on the left-hand side, so it’s not a gearbox problem we had.

“The gearbox has been inspected yesterday evening, it has been rebuilt, and the gearbox was ok for the race. What happened is on the opposite side compared to the accident, so it may be completely unrelated to the accident. But something on which we need to carefully understand and analyse.

“We have no answer right now.”

Speaking after his retirement, Leclerc said his overriding emotion was one of sadness.

“Sad. Just very sad. It’s a very difficult one to take and I also feel sad for the team because they’ve been checking everything,” he said.

Leclerc’s absence will have come as a bitter disappointment to his supporters in the 7,500 crowd allowed to watch the race from the grandstands as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted.

His withdrawal left Verstappen, who is 14 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, with the all-important pole position.

With overtaking opportunities hard to come by on the narrow twisting circuit pole has an increased importance with 12 of the last 16 winners having set off from the front of the grid.

Meanwhile, Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz finished second to claim his first podium at Ferrari, although he said it was a “bittersweet” feeling.

“It’s a good feeling of course today. In particular with starting (P3) but to finish P2 is a good result as I think the team deserves to at least get a podium this weekend, but the bittersweet feeling is still there,” he said.

“You know, the bittersweet feeling is still there because I had the pace to put it on pole or at least to win this weekend and the fact that in the end we didn’t quite manage, is not great.

“And of course, I feel for Charles, I feel for the team that didn’t manage to start today from pole. It’s a strange day, but from a personal level I have to be happy with P2 because it’s the maximum that we could have achieved today.”

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How much did Max Verstappen’s crash cost Red Bull, British GP

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Friday his team has been left with a bill for a whopping AUD$1.8 million to repair the damage to Max Verstappen’s car after the controversial collision with Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix.

Verstappen and seven-time world champion Hamilton clashed on the opening lap of last weekend’s race at Silverstone.

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The Dutchman was forced to retire and undergo a six-hour hospital check-up while Hamilton took victory to revive his title hopes.

“That crash has cost us approximately $1.8 million and an accident like that has massive ramifications in a budget cap era,” Horner wrote in a column on the team’s official website.

Horner was not happy with how Mercedes celebrated the win at Silverstone.Source: AFP

Horner also criticised Hamilton for his celebrations on the podium, a display already blasted as “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike” by Verstappen.

Even though Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty, his victory allowed him to slash Verstappen’s lead in the championship from 33 points to just eight.

“I am also still disappointed about the level of celebrations enjoyed in the wake of the accident,” added Horner.

“The Mercedes team were aware of the gravity of the crash, with Max widely reported as having been hospitalised and requiring further checks.

“It is unimaginable not to inform your driver of the situation, moreover to protect your driver in case they do not show the necessary restraint in celebrating, particularly when it was as a result of an incident he was penalised for.”

Horner continued his criticism of Hamilton for his role in the first-lap crash.

“The reality is that Hamilton has met his match in a car that is now competitive, and I agree that both drivers need to show each other respect, but Hamilton was the aggressor on Sunday,” he wrote.

Hamilton celebrated a win on home soil.Source: AFP

“I also felt the narrative that Max was being ‘overly aggressive’ was unjustified.

“You only have to look at the fact Max has zero penalty points on his licence and has not been found guilty of any on-track misjudgements in recent years.”

Hamilton and Verstappen will renew their rivalry at the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend.

Horner added: “I spoke to Max on Monday morning and he felt like he’d done a few rounds with (heavyweight boxer) Tyson Fury.

“He was battered and bruised but feeling lucky and grateful to the medical team, as we all are, and in true Max style he was already trying to put it out of his mind and look ahead to Hungary.”

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Max Verstappen crash, evidence, Lewis Hamilton, British Grand Prix, Red Bull, Mercedes, update

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In a new twist, Formula 1 expert Martin Brundle has revealed Red Bull believes it has the data to prove Lewis Hamilton entered Copse corner on the first lap faster than any other during the Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen accused seven-time world champion Hamilton of being “dangerous, disrespectful and unsportsmanlike” following their collision at Silverstone on Sunday.

Red Bull’s Verstappen had to retire from the race while Hamilton went on to win, slashing the Dutchman’s lead in the championship from 33 points to just eight.

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Hamilton nudges Max for home GP win! | 03:07

“Red Bull felt it was a professional foul, an intentional accident from Hamilton,” Brundle wrote in his post-race Sky Sports F1 column.

“They were incandescent, their potential world champion was bruised, their car expensively wrecked in this new cost cap era, and with possible grid penalties to come from any engine and ancillary damage.

“They would score zero points from the race and both championship leads would be seriously eroded. I am told by Red Bull there is data to prove Lewis was significantly faster into Copse than at any other time and he would not have made the corner without running wide, and inevitably contacting Max.

“Presumably, that will be made publicly available and if Red Bull feel they have ‘new evidence’ they may well make an appeal to the FIA as to their perceived degree of fault and leniency regarding Hamilton.”

Verstappen wins first ever sprint race | 01:04

Mercedes, meanwhile, insisted Lewis Hamilton’s controversial first-lap move on world championship rival Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix was “absolutely in line with the overtaking guide”.

“As far as we are concerned, the manoeuvre that took place, the manoeuvre that Lewis did, was absolutely in line with the FIA’s overtaking guide,” said Mercedes technical chief James Allison.

Hamilton was penalised 10 seconds for the incident.

“Lewis definitely was substantially alongside. He had his front axle well beyond the midpoint of Verstappen’s car,” added Allison.

“It requires you are substantially alongside and it requires that you must be able to make the corner. By make the corner it means go round the corner and not leave the track or lose control of the car. Those are the things you need to satisfy.

“If you can go round the corner, if you are substantially alongside the other car then the corner is yours.” He added: “I did feel that it was harsh to get the penalty.

“This is about what are the rules to do with overtaking and I didn’t see that Lewis did anything wrong with respect to those rules.”

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F1 British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, racially abused, Twitter, Instagram, latest news

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Lewis Hamilton was the victim of “multiple instances of racist abuse on social media” during and after his controversial win in the British Grand Prix, according to a joint statement by Formula One, the FIA and his Mercedes team.

The seven-time world champion was involved early on in an incident that saw championship leader Max Verstappen plough his Red Bull into a wall and out of the race.

Hamilton was hit by a 10 second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap in the title race to just eight points.

“During, and after, yesterday’s British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was subjected to multiple instances of racist abuse on social media following an in-race collision,” they said in a joint statement condemning the behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”.

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“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

“Formula 1, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”

Daniel Ricciardo also hit out at the racism Hamilton has received in light of the incident, saying: “I’ve seen some of the remarks aimed at Lewis after yesterday. No matter what happens on track there is absolutely zero place for racism and hate. We have to be better than this.”

Verstappen, who was taken to hospital for checks after the race, later accused Hamilton of “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour”.

A public supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton gave his support a week ago to the England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho who were also abused after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

“I hope this opens a conversation around acceptance,” he wrote on Instagram at the time.

“We must work towards a society that doesn’t require Black players to prove their value or place in society only through victory.”

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