Leclerc frustrated by "worst ever start" to an F1 season with Melbourne DNF

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is frustrated by his "worst ever start of the season" after being eliminated on the first lap of Formula 1's Australian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Leclerc was thrown off the track after contact with Lance Stroll when he attempted to pass the Aston Martin around the outside of Turn 3.

The Monegasque ended up beached in the outside gravel trap, ending his race after just three corners.

Leclerc's second retirement in three grands prix means he's still stuck on a mere six points. In Bahrain he retired with power unit troubles, which led to a grid penalty in Saudi Arabia from which he was unable to finish higher than seventh.

While 2022 was a challenging season for Ferrari, Leclerc at least started it off strongly with two wins and a second place from the corresponding trio of races.

But this season couldn't have been more different with Leclerc languishing in 10th place after his solitary finish in Jeddah, scoring by far the least amount of points out of his five season starts with Ferrari.

"I'm frustrated, obviously it's the worst ever start of the season," Leclerc said.

"I mean, only six points, so it's frustrating."

No further action was taken for Leclerc's incident as Stroll was sandwiched in between the Ferrari man and his Aston team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Leclerc acknowledged the Canadian wasn't to blame and said he went for a gap that suddenly opened up on the outside of Turn 3.

The retired car of Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

The retired car of Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

"In Turn 1 I took it easy, I didn't want to take any risk," he recounted.

"In Turn 3, I honestly wasn't really planning to do any overtakes there but Lance had to slow down the car a lot while braking because Fernando had to, because of the cars in front.

"And so I saw that there was a gap on the outside, I went for it.

"Unfortunately, Fernando had to slow even more down the car towards the end of braking and Lance found himself between Fernando and myself and we had contact.

"I'm obviously not blaming it on Lance. I think it's a racing incident. But it's just very frustrating because the end result is that I'm going home with basically no points."

Stroll agreed: "It was honestly a racing incident I think.

"It gets so narrow, this track is narrow, going into Turn 3 I was braking in the middle of him and Fernando, I didn't move and then kind of got sandwiched and then we made contact.

"It was unfortunate for him and lucky for me that I didn't pick up damage or anything."

Having started the season wanting to challenge Melbourne winner Max Verstappen for the championship, Leclerc says his focus has now shifted to just completing a race weekend without any setbacks.

"For now, instead of thinking about long term targets, I think just finishing a race without any penalties or issues whatsoever is a priority," he added. "And then take the momentum and see what's possible."

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