Albon had just switched to slicks while Leclerc had moved to intermediates, but the Williams driver was convinced that he had more pace so was thus reluctant to let the Ferrari past.
After a discussion about an early switch to slicks on lap 18, Albon became only the second driver to make the move after Mick Schumacher had done so one lap earlier.
Polesitter Leclerc had stopped for intermediates at the same time and after emerging from the pits he closed in on the hard-shod Albon heading into Casino Square.
But the Williams didn’t move out of the way and allow himself to be lapped, causing the frustrated Ferrari driver to shout “Come on, what the f*ck!” later in the lap.
Leclerc eventually got past when Albon locked up and went straight on at Ste Devote, having stayed in front for almost a lap, but the Ferrari driver’s lost time still meant he dropped to fourth behind Max Verstappen.
Albon suggested that he’d been distracted by a radio call asking him to respect the blue flags.
After the race Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto questioned why neither Albon nor Nicholas Latifi – who spent several corners in front of Carlos Sainz – had been sanctioned after Sainz was fined for impeding Lance Stroll in practice.
Asked why he hadn’t moved over earlier, Albon insisted that on dry tyres he felt he had the pace to stay ahead, perhaps unaware that Leclerc was by now on intermediates and not extreme wets.
“It’s tricky, because basically, we went out on slicks, and we had a massive pace advantage,” he said.
Alex Albon, Williams FW44
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
“But it would take three corners to let him past and then I would have been straightaway quick enough to re-overtake him again.
“And you kind of get into a position where I think, in my eyes for both of us, it was quicker if I’d just stayed ahead, because I would have pulled away from him pretty much straight away.
“So that’s it really, it’s kind of one of those awkward situations.
“But in my eyes it was a bit like ‘Okay, if we let him straight back past, we’re going to overtake him straight back again.’”
Albon reported to the team that he had flat spotted all four tyres in the Ste Devote incident, and then a rear puncture meant that he was called in for medium tyres just four laps after his earlier stop, dropping him to the back of the field.
Later he received a five-second penalty for cutting the chicane and gaining an advantage on Mick Schumacher.
He then lost a lot of time at the restart after the Schumacher red flag, when he was able to unlap himself but was not able to catch the pack.
He eventually retired after 48 laps with an unspecified problem at the front of the car triggering porpoising.
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“Tricky,” he said of his race. “Getting the brakes in the right window was very tricky out there today.
Alex Albon, Williams FW44, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“We had decent pace in clean air. And then we picked up some issue in the front of the car at the end. So we had to box, so you know, scruffy.
“I think as a whole, as a weekend, it would have been very tricky to score points. But I felt like we were much closer to the midfield, and in general it was a positive weekend.
“Honestly, our pace was good. And I wasn’t just driving it like qualifying, I was managing everything and I was feeling strong with the car. So we do have positives, and we know race faces is a positive for us.
“I mean, as bleak as today was, or the result was, I think it’s been a step forward for us.”