By falling out of the lead at the French Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc gave Max Verstappen victory and a significant edge in the World Championship.
In need of a positive performance to keep his title ambitions alive, the Ferrari driver lost control at the Beausset right-hander two circuits after the Red Bull conducted its first pit stop.
Verstappen’s sixth victory in 12 races extends his lead to 63 points with 10 races remaining.
Lewis Hamilton finished second on his 300th Formula One start, with Mercedes teammate George Russell third and the final podium spot after a hectic and heated battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the closing circuits.
Carlos Sainz of Ferrari finished fifth, criticising his team’s decision to pit again soon after retaking third place from Perez with 11 circuits remaining.
“The car was quick today – of course, unlucky for Charles, I hope he is OK – but I just did my race and looked after the tyres,” said Verstappen.
“We still have a bit of work to do, over a single lap especially, so we just have to keep on working.”
Leclerc’s disastrous error rendered irrelevant the question of who would win in what had been a tightly balanced race between him and Verstappen.
But, less than two laps later, none of that mattered when the Ferrari spun out at the hard double-right corner following the long Mistral straight and the flat-out Signes curve.
Given the speed at which he lost control, Leclerc spun across the run-off area before nose-diving into the barriers.
Leclerc, who began from pole position, maintained his lead on the opening lap and had to hold off Verstappen for the first ten laps.
However, Leclerc was able to increase his lead to more than a second, preventing Verstappen from employing the DRS overtaking aid to make his lead more comfortable.
On lap 16, Red Bull was the first to blink, sending Verstappen in for his first pit stop.
The question was how long Leclerc would run before stopping, and whether he would be able to retake the lead from Verstappen after he pitted