He was slowly closing in on Verstappen, who was running a one-stop strategy on the middle tyres, when Daniel Ricciardo stop it McLaren Between two corners of Lismo with his car stuck in the transmission.
The car could not be moved behind the curbs and required a crane to lift it from the side of the road.
While the leaders were searching for new tires in anticipation of the restart, the race remained under safe car conditions until the end, much to the frustration of runner-up Leclerc and Verstappen team boss Christian Horner.
“There was enough time to start this race,” Horner told Sky. “I think they picked up the wrong car, they picked up George Russell. “
The FIA has now responded to explain why the race ended under caution, noting that the severity of the crash was not great enough to warrant a red flag.
The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photography: Mark Sutton / motorsports pictures
An FIA spokesperson said: “While every effort was made to quickly recover car number 3 and resume racing, the situation developed and the guards were unable to put the car into neutral and push it into the escape route.
“With the safety of the recovery process being our only priority, and the accident was not large enough to require a red flag, the race ended under a safety car following the procedures agreed between the FIA and all competitors.
“The timing of the safety car period in the race has no bearing on this measure.”
Leclerc admitted that the safety car outage did not unduly alter his racing result.
“I hope we end up in the race, but unfortunately we finished second in that place, because of what happened before,” he said.
Asked by Motorsport.com to explain what happened, Ricciardo said he had not received any warning that the car was about to shut down, explaining that there was “nothing I could do”.
“It just turned off,” he said. “I didn’t feel any warning signs, I was on Lismo 1 and didn’t feel anything.
“So I tried to stop inside, away from the race line, obviously to a safe area ASAP, but I couldn’t see anywhere I could stop so I had to stop on the grass and that was it.
“I tried to get out of the car as fast as I could and do what I could, but I obviously heard in the end that the race ended that way under a safe car. So shame on the race but I can’t do anything.”
The previous Formula 3 feature race was red flagged for a crash involving Koch Maini and Brad Benavides at Lismo’s second exit, as the former MP Motorsport car spun through the arches of rival Carlin.
This championship was ultimately decided in favor of ART driver Victor Martins, who lost only one place to a five-second fine for violating track limits, and was therefore ranked fourth.