Verstappen takes French Grand Prix victory as Leclerc crashes out

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen extended his championship lead with race victory at the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard, as Charles Leclerc crashed his Ferrari while leading the race.

At the start, Leclerc easily lead away from pole ahead of Verstappen, who initially looked like he would have to defend against Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 as the Mercedes driver had launched straight past Sergio Perez up ahead and starting third.

But Verstappen hit the brakes latest of the top three and ran to Leclerc’s outside, but the Ferrari was under no real pressure on the racing line.

The top ten immediately pulled clear of Hamilton – exchanging fastest laps as they did so.

As soon as DRS was activated on lap three, Verstappen – who was already able to catch Leclerc on every straight with his lower drag, skinnier rear wing – really began to pressure his rival, who appeared to be struggling for rear tyre grip.

Verstappen closed the gap to a minimum of 0.5 seconds at the start of lap eight of 53 as he twice got so close running into Le Beausset he looked to attack on Leclerc’s outside.

But the Ferrari’s higher downforce, larger rear wing meant Leclerc was able to pull away through the technical sections at the start and end of the laps and a tense stalemate developed with Verstappen falling back towards one-second adrift over the next few laps.

The defending world champion was now the one seemingly struggling for grip as at one stage he slipped off the road at Turn 6, so picking up his first track limits violation, and by lap 14 he had had fallen out of DRS range as Leclerc began to increase his pace back towards where he had been lapping in the early stages.

Leclerc’s lead was heading up towards 1.5 seconds when Red Bull called Verstappen in at the end of lap 16 to switch to the hard tyres.

Ferrari, which had told Leclerc it was considering a “Plan B” strategy and that the harder tyres team-mate Carlos Sainz was running down the order after his engine-change grid penalty were still suffering from thermal degradation, did not move to immediately cover Verstappen’s stop.

But just after it had warned Leclerc to look after his mediums, the race was turned on its head when Leclerc crashed out at Le Beausset – losing the rear of his F1-75 in a mistake while running close to the edge of the track deep into the high-speed hairpin on his stressed tyre.

He rapidly spun around and went straight on into the barriers, where he fumed “I cannot go on throttle” before screaming “Nooooo!” in realisation that he was out of the race.

The incident was covered by a safety car, where Hamilton, who had seen off Perez’s early attentions to run well clear of the second Red Bull before Leclerc’s crash, led a mass visit to the pits.

He rejoined behind Verstappen and still ahead of Perez, with George Russell, Fernando Alonso and the two McLarens following in the queue ahead of Sainz.

He had risen up the order from his back row start in the early stages, but picked up a five-second penalty after his slow safety car stop ended when was released into the path of Alex Albon’s approaching Williams.

At the restart on lap 21, Verstappen easily raced clear of Hamilton and was soon in complete command up from, while the Mercedes again pulled away from Perez.

The main action in the pack was Sainz’s continued recovery drive, as he jumped by Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 1 at the restart and got Lando Norris into the Mistral straight chicane further around the lap.

On the next lap he got ahead of compatriot Alonso and then set off after Russell, who then frustrated the remaining Ferrari’s progress for several laps before the Briton’s defence at the Turns 8/9 chicane meant Sainz got a better run up the hill to Signes, where he thrilling got ahead with an around-the-outside pass.

Up front, Verstappen continued to pull clear of Hamilton and his lead had reached four-seconds by lap 32, before it soon shot up to nearly seven – mainly thanks to his pursuer subsequently having to catch an oversteer snap through the second corner and ran off the track.

From there, Verstappen was untroubled to the finish and came home with a 10.5 seconds margin of victory ahead of Hamilton, who was likewise unthreatened in second – this was despite a brief moment of worry for the leaders when Zhou Guanyu stopped in the Turn 6 runoff and triggered a brief virtual safety car.

Their advantage up front was because after his Signes pass on Russell, Sainz had closed in on Perez and pressured the Mexican driver hard for several laps as Ferrari dithered over whether to bring him in for a second time – knowing If it did he would his penalty applied tyres could be changed.

Both team and driver changed their minds on whether to come in our not, but Sainz was still out by lap 41 and he was running right behind Perez – attacking at Signes and then staying close enough to dive ahead at the final corner.

Ferrari had called him in mid-way through their scrap, but Sainz dismissed the call and shot clear – having pulled Russell along in his wake so the Mercedes was then in position to attack the grip-less Perez.

On lap 42, Russell made a late move to the inside of the Turn 8 part of the Mistral chicane and when Perez turned in the pair came close to crashing before the Red Bull scampered across Turn 9 and stayed ahead – to Russell’s frustration but with the stewards’ quickly deciding the incident did not merit investigation.

But straight after this, Ferrari then ultimately did bring Sainz in for a second stop and he re-joined ninth and with a near 30 seconds gap to try and recover – as well as repass the Norris and Alonso.

He did so quickly and showed searing pace on his way to setting the race’s fastest lap, but came home a frustrated fifth.

That was behind Perez, who lost out to Russell after the Mercedes driver jumped ahead of the Red Bull when the VSC ended as they approached the final corner and then soaked up pressure over the final three laps to seal third.

Sainz ended up 11.5 seconds behind Perez, but well clear of Alonso and Norris, with Esteban Ocon eighth after hitting Yuki Tsunoda at the Mistral straight chicane on lap one and getting a five-second penalty he served at his safety car stop for spinning the AlphaTauri around.

Ricciardo took ninth and Lance Stroll got the final point, despite Sebastian Vettel getting very close to nipping ahead on the last lap – with the chasing Aston Martin appearing to nearly hit the other when it was slow getting off the final corner’s apex.

The other non-finishers were Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen who retired in the pits shortly after they clashed at Turn 2 in the closing stages, just after the Williams had attacked the Haas at the preceding Turn 1 in an incident that will be investigated now the race has finished.

Tsunoda stopped on the same lap as Leclerc’s crash as a result of the floor damage he had picked up in the lap one clash with Ocon that had dropped him to the rear of the pack.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the French Grand Prix. This result increases his championship points lead. Feel sorry for Charles Leclerc as he was leading the race and was looking good for a race victory. But a big mistake occurred and the Ferrari ended in the wall. As for the Scuderia’s strategy with Carlos Sainz, what is going on? Not looking at the bigger picture and even with time penalty, lost some crucial points.

French Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:30:02.112
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +10.587
3 George Russell Mercedes +16.495
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +17.310
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +28.872
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine +42.879
7 Lando Norris McLaren +52.026
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +56.959
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +60.372
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +62.549
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +64.494
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +65.448
13 Alex Albon Williams +68.565
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +76.666
15 Mick Schumacher Haas +80.394s
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF
– Nicholas Latifi Williams +6 laps
– Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF

4 thoughts to “Verstappen takes French Grand Prix victory as Leclerc crashes out”

  1. French Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Max Verstappen won the 2022 French Grand Prix for Red Bull after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out of the race on Lap 18 – walking away unscathed – as the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completed the podium at Paul Ricard.

    High track temperatures meant tyre management was key at Le Castellet, and after Verstappen pitted on Lap 17, it was up to Leclerc to respond. A cruel snap of oversteer at Turn 11 spelled the end of his race – and cued a scream of frustration – before bringing out a Safety Car. Verstappen stayed out and inherited the lead, Hamilton and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez pitting and giving chase for the restart.

    Championship leader Verstappen led comfortably when the race resumed on Lap 22, opening a four-second gap over Hamilton by Lap 30 of 53 and eventually winning by a margin of over 10 seconds. Perez lost P3 to Hamilton at the start of the race and couldn’t keep pace with him.

    He nonetheless seemed favourite to finish third but after a late Virtual Safety Car – triggered by Zhou Guanyu’s on-track stoppage in the Alfa Romeo – he lost the final podium place to Mercedes right as the VSC ended on Lap 50. Perez and Russell had previously made contact at Turn 8 – no penalties applied – in a fraught battle for the rostrum, which ended with the pair split by just 0.8s by the flag.

    Driver of the Day Carlos Sainz started 19th with engine penalties, but with his Ferrari on hard tyres he made it into the top 10 by Lap 14. He pitted for mediums during the Safety Car, but an unsafe release led to him serving a stop-go penalty and pitting again for mediums on Lap 43. He passed the Alpines and McLarens to finish fifth at the chequered flag.

    Alpine’s Fernando Alonso passed Lando Norris early on and stayed in sixth, ahead of both McLarens for much of the race, holding them up for team mate Esteban Ocon to take P7 off Daniel Ricciardo after the Safety Car restart. McLaren started the afternoon level on points with Alpine but, with Norris finishing seventh and Ricciardo ninth, Alpine move ahead in the standings heading to Hungary.

    Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 having won out in an early battle – and last-lap scrap that threatened to boil over – against 11th-place Aston Martin team mate Sebastian Vettel for the final point.

    Pierre Gasly went from hard tyres to mediums in the Safety Car restart and finished 12th, ahead of Alex Albon – the Williams driver eventually losing out to the AlphaTauri.

    Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas finished 14th on a hard-hard-medium strategy, while the Haas of Mick Schumacher was the last of the finishers in P15, the German having been tapped into a spin in an incident with Zhou before the half-way point.

    Yuki Tsunoda spun early on having been tapped by Alpine’s Ocon, the AlphaTauri driver becoming the first to retire from the race on Lap 17 with damage.

    Kevin Magnussen made it from 20th to 14th after the Safety Car restart, but contact with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi saw the Dane retreat to the pits to retire before Lap 40, Latifi following suit a couple of laps later.

    Zhou suffered his fifth retirement of the season, pulling up just off the track to bring out a VSC late in the race.

    Just days before the 2022 French Grand Prix, it was announced that Paddy Hopkirk had passed away at the age of 89, the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner having carved his Mini Cooper through the treacherous Col de Turini with what Autosport at the time called a “well-nigh perfect run”. To become king of Le Castellet on Sunday, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc would need to do the very same…

    After all, the Monegasque would start from pole position – a healthy tow from grid penalty-hit team mate Carlos Sainz (to start P19) helping him on Saturday – ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton starting his 300th Grand Prix in P4. None of them would have overlooked the fact that all three of the last F1 races here had been won from pole position.

    Temperatures rising, tyre management would be key – more so because the pit lane exit point had been extended by around 90 metres and the speed limit dropped to 60 km/h. Only Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Sainz had chosen to start on hards; the rest opting for mediums as they prepared for the lights to go out.

    As clutches were held and released, it was Leclerc who kept the lead, Verstappen dealing with the threat of a rapid Hamilton who jumped to third at Perez’s expense and briefly pondered a wheel-to-wheel battle with the Dutchman going into the opening chicane. Fernando Alonso also enjoyed a terrific start, going from P7 to P5, to leave Mercedes driver Russell and both McLarens in his wake.

    Magnussen made the most ground at the start, jumping to 13th from 20th while rivals dodged a collision between Alpine’s Ocon and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda – who spun to last – two abreast into Turn 9. Ocon would soon receive a five-second penalty for that incident.

    Verstappen was right on Leclerc’s tail through to Lap 5, the Red Bull driver enjoying DRS as he hovered within half a second of the leading Ferrari. Perez similarly tailed Hamilton, the Mexican aiming to wrest that podium place back. As for Sainz, he didn’t make headway on Lap 1 but would soon make quick work of the Alfa Romeos, Gasly, and Mick Schumacher, to reach P14 by Lap 5.

    The championship leader attempted to move for the lead around the outside of Turn 11 on Lap 6 but had to back off, deciding to loom large in Leclerc’s mirrors. They remained stubborn, the Red Bull still within the Ferrari’s mirrors as the ticker hit Lap 10. Meanwhile, it seemed that Hamilton had opened a slight gap to Perez and Russell had begun to gain on the Mexican – an encouraging sign for the Silver Arrows…

    The pit window was pried open by Magnussen, who stopped from 12th on Lap 9 for another set of hards with Haas team mate Schumacher and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu following suit a lap later.

    Leclerc was soon told to opt for “Plan B”, Verstappen falling out of DRS range, while team mate Sainz had made it into the top 10 at Lance Stroll’s expense on Lap 13. Verstappen blinked first, taking the call to pit for hards on Lap 17 and dropping from second to sixth, behind Lando Norris – though he took P5 off the McLaren at Turn 11 soon after the stop. Would Ferrari react, or opt for a one-stop strategy with their race leader?

    Ferrari didn’t need to concern themselves with Leclerc’s strategy in the end, as on Lap 18, the leader entered Turn 11 and the rear stepped out, with the Monegasque spinning into the barriers. His race was over. Leclerc’s goosebump-triggering scream over the radio evoked nothing but hurt and frustration.

    The resultant Safety Car saw Hamilton pit as Russell and Perez followed, all three drivers stationary for over three seconds in their respective stops as Verstappen inherited the lead.

    Everyone bar Zhou opted to stop during that caution, eighth-placed Sainz opting for mediums rather than hards along with Gasly as the others chose the hard compound. Sainz would soon receive a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release – right into the path of Williams’ Alex Albon – during his Safety Car stop.

    Lap 22 saw the Safety Car peel off and Verstappen lead away with ease, taking just five laps to open a gap of three seconds over Hamilton. Sainz was undeterred by his penalty and pried places off Norris and Alonso to go into fifth using the pace of those medium tyres. Next up for the sole Ferrari in the field was Russell, who lost P4 to Sainz on Lap 30 on the run to Turn 10.

    Sainz was oozing confidence, his pace superior to the cars of Perez and Hamilton – who had gone off the track and clattered the exit kerbs at Turn 2 on Lap 32 – but the question remained: how long could his medium compounds last? Nine laps later, Sainz went wheel-to-wheel with Perez – shouting “not now!” to his pit wall as they asked him to box at the most inopportune time – and yet managed to take P2 off the Red Bull going into the final corner.

    Russell closed in on the Red Bull on Lap 42 and made contact with Perez going into Turn 8. The Mexican retained his place, Russell’s protestations shut down by his own pit wall who made it clear that he was, in fact, not ahead of the Red Bull going into the chicane. With stewards deeming it a racing incident, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told him to ‘keep his head down’ and continue in the hunt of Perez, now vulnerable on his worn hard compounds.

    From P3 on Lap 43, Sainz served his five-second penalty for the previous unsafe release and took a new set of mediums. Now he had another recovery drive to make with the Alpines and McLarens ahead.

    The race was then neutralised as Zhou had stopped just off the track, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car and a fifth DNF for the rookie. That VSC finished just as Verstappen started Lap 51, Russell still in chase of Perez for the final podium.

    Russell’s next move was nothing short of cunning, as he swept past a slow-moving Perez almost instantly out of the final corner and stayed ahead. Perez attempted to hit back, noting that Russell was pushing the boundaries of the track on numerous occasions, and very nearly reclaimed P3 off the Mercedes. In the end, he finished just 0.815s behind Russell.

    Verstappen, meanwhile, led comfortably until the end of the race with an eventual margin of 10.587s over runner-up Hamilton. The Dutchman now has a 63-point lead over team mate Perez in the drivers’ standings. With a double-podium finish, Mercedes are just 44 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’.

    Sainz easily took places off the Alpines and McLarens to finish fifth on the road, salvage some points for Ferrari and take Driver of The Day honours too.

    Alonso jumped to P5 for Alpine at the start but lost a place to his compatriot Sainz at the end, the two-time champion finishing comfortably ahead of the McLaren of Norris in P7. Alpine and McLaren were level on points before the French Grand Prix, but the home team forged ahead in the battle for P4 in the standings.

    Eighth-placed Esteban Ocon shrugged off his early penalty and passed Daniel Ricciardo for P8 on Lap 7, placing the next McLaren of Lando Norris in his crosshairs. The Frenchman, however, lost time on the Safety Car restart and ended up back behind the orange cars on Lap 22. The home driver then passed Ricciardo again on Lap 36, leaving the Australian ninth.

    At Aston Martin, Stroll pried a place off Vettel at the start and held him off in a Lap 1 wheel-to-wheel battle that reared its head again on the very last lap of the race, both cars tussling for the final point in a skirmish that was won by the Canadian. It very nearly turned ugly, however, the pair almost making major contact.

    Home driver Pierre Gasly lost time as he outbraked himself at Turn 8 on Lap 28 in chase of Alex Albon, having to take the escape road, and fell from 12th to 15th. But, having completed a hard-medium one-stop race, the AlphaTauri driver recovered back to 12th as Albon also made a mistake late on to finish 13th for Williams.

    Valtteri Bottas’s hard-tyred start didn’t pay off as he switched to another set of hards in the Safety Car period, then mediums 18 laps later, to finish 14th for Alfa Romeo. Fifteenth-place Haas finisher Mick Schumacher was tapped into a spin by Zhou at Turn 11 on Lap 22 – soon after the Safety Car. After being penalised for the clash, Zhou eventually stopped on Lap 50 with a mechanical failure and was classified 16th.

    Williams’ Nicholas Latifi attempted a move on Haas’s Kevin Magnussen on Lap 38, but with the Dane having run out of room, the pair made contact. Magnussen retired in the pits, Latifi following suit soon after, with the stewards deeming the clash a racing incident.

    Tsunoda was the first driver to bow out of the race thanks to his early collision, meaning neither AlphaTauri scored points with their updated cars in France.

    So as Mercedes took their first double podium of the season, Verstappen stretched his championship legs at Paul Ricard – but the headlines will focus on Leclerc and Ferrari faltering in France.

  2. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc owns up to “extremely frustrating” French Grand Prix mistake. has the news story.

    Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc says his crash out of the lead of the Formula 1 French Grand Prix was his mistake, and admits his title hopes “don’t look great” now.

    After an initial early tussle with eventual race winner Max Verstappen, Leclerc held onto the lead as the Red Bull driver came in for his pitstop.

    Ferrari elected to keep Leclerc out on his fading mediums instead of immediately covering off Red Bull’s undercut attempt, with the former crashing out at Turn 11 when he lost the rear of his car on lap 18.

    Unable to reverse his car out of the barriers, Leclerc was forced into his third retirement of the season.

    With Verstappen sealing victory at Paul Ricard, Leclerc is now 63 points adrift in the standings with 10 races remaining.

    Leclerc doesn’t believe at this stage his retirement was caused by a mechanical issue, and added that he feels he has thrown away 32 points in 2022 with mistakes despite “performing at the highest level of my career”.

    “No, it wasn’t [a mechanical issue], or at least I don’t know yet if it was,” he said when asked by Autosport to explain his crash.

    “But, no it doesn’t look like it was, it was just a mistake.”

    He added: “Obviously it’s extremely frustrating. I feel like I’m performing at probably the highest level of my career since the beginning of the season, but there’s no point performing at that high level if I am doing those mistakes.

    “I think there are 32 points overall [I’ve lost with mistakes], 25 today I think it was likely we were going to win today because we were fast.

    “And seven in Imola with my mistake, so at the end of the year we will count back, and if there are 32 points missing then I know it’s coming from me and I did not deserve the championship.

    “But for the second half of the championship I need to get on top of those things if I want to be a world champion.”

    Leclerc also noted that the car didn’t do anything strange before the crash, but “it’s been a very tricky balance all weekend” and the heat “makes it difficult to be consistent” from lap to lap.

    Asked what his thoughts are at this moment regarding his own title aspirations, Leclerc added: “I will believe in it to the end and I will count it at the end, but right now it doesn’t look great.”

  3. Lewis Hamilton reveals drinks bottle failed in French Grand Prix podium charge. has the full story.

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton revealed his drive to second place in Formula 1’s French Grand Prix was made tougher after his drinks bottle failed.

    After Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retired from the lead at Paul Ricard, Hamilton moved up to second place, which he kept until the finish, crossing the line 10 seconds behind Red Bull’s winner Max Verstappen.

    Afterwards Hamilton, who had to take a breather in the cool-down room, revealed his drinks bottle didn’t work during the race, which made his drive in the sweltering hot conditions to his season-best result even tougher.

    “What amazing weather we’ve had, and that was actually a tough race because my drinks bottle didn’t work,” Hamilton said.

    “But what a great result considering we’ve been so far off these guys all weekend.

    “Reliability is one thing that my team has been amazing at, so a huge congratulations to the team back in the two factories, the team here who without them, we couldn’t get this podium, and George did an amazing job today as well.

    “I didn’t see my weight just now, but I would imagine [I lost] probably around three kilos. So yeah, it’s enough. I’m looking forward to downing the rest of this drink…”

    Hamilton was buoyed by his fourth consecutive podium, and by Mercedes’ first double podium of 2022 as teammate George Russell finished third.

    He was encouraged to see Mercedes “can at least lean on” Red Bull and Ferrari on race pace and hopes further upgrades will help bridge the gap.

    When asked about his expectations for next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix, he replied: “It’s going to be hard to beat the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, you see they have the pace advantage still.

    “But I’m hoping we will bring some sort of upgrade to that track and hopefully take a step forward closer to them.

    “You can see us in the race, we can at least lean on them a little bit, so hopefully in that race even closer.”

  4. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez says he lost third place in the Formula 1 French Grand Prix due to a “totally wrong” message regarding the ending of the virtual safety car.

    In the latter stages of Sunday’s Paul Ricard race, Perez was embroiled in a battle with Mercedes’ George Russell over the final podium place.

    A late virtual safety car was called when Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu broke down at Turn 6 with four laps remaining.

    On lap 51 of 53, the VSC was ended, but Perez was caught out by an incorrect message from the FIA, telling him racing would resume later than it did, which allowed Russell to take the final podium spot away from the Red Bull driver.

    In the regulations over virtual safety car periods, the green flag must be shown 10-15 seconds after the initial end message is given, but in this instance, it took close to a minute.

    “It was very unfortunate what happened with the virtual safety car,” Perez said after finishing fourth on Sunday.

    “I got the message it was going to end out of Turn 9, so I went for it and then it didn’t end. Then I got the message saying it was going to end through Turn 12. And I was just too close to it.

    “It seems like George had different information and he was able to prepare better for it [the restart].

    “I mean it’s a shame the virtual safety car interfered with the result, to be honest. It shouldn’t be the case, but today it was the case.

    “It [the message of VSC ending] was totally wrong, there was something going on because it said it was going to end out of Turn 9 and it only ended out of Turn 12.”

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes Perez had the pace to fend off Russell over the final three laps without the VSC issue, and wants to discuss it with the FIA to understand what happened.

    “Checo struggled a little more this weekend with [tyre] degradation than we’ve seen previously,” Horner began.

    “And what was frustrating for him is there was an issue in race control with the safety car, the VSC, because they couldn’t turn it off, so they had to do a reset.

    “Just talking with him, he said he wasn’t getting the delta in his car, so he was bang on his delta.

    “George either pre-empted it but was within the delta, or maybe the information to the two cars was different.

    “We have to go and explore that. Yeah, it was frustrating, because I think he would have had the pace to hold him off for a double podium.

    “Nevertheless, it’s still important points today in both championships.”


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