Max Verstappen benefited greatly from Charles Leclerc’s crash that eliminated him from first place in the French Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver, who needed a strong result to keep his championship hopes alive, crashed two laps after the Red Bull had made its first pit stop at Beausset’s right-hand corner.
This gave Verstappen a seventh win in 12 races and 63 points lead with 10 races to go.
Lewis Hamilton, on his 300th Formula 1 race, finished second, and his Mercedes team-mate George Russell came third and secured the final podium position after an aggressive and confrontational battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the closing kilometres.
Sainz’s Ferrari finished fifth, questioning his team’s decision to make a second pit stop after he took third place from Perez with 11 laps remaining.
Big Mistake for Leclerc
There were no longer any doubts about who would win the fiercely-contested battle between Leclerc and Verstappen after Leclerc’s catastrophic error.
Starting on pole, Leclerc withstood Verstappen’s heavy pressure for the first 10 laps.
After that, Leclerc extended his lead over Verstappen to more than a second, making it a little more difficult for Verstappen to pass him using the DRS overtaking aid. Then the Red Bull team bought in Verstappen for his first pit stop on lap 16.
Leclerc continued on the track and the question was how long he would continue before stopping, and whether he would be able to retake the lead from Verstappen after he pitted.
It didn’t matter at all two laps later when the Ferrari spun out of control at the difficult double-right corners after the Mistral straight and Signes curve.
At such a high speed, Leclerc crashed into the barriers, relatively lightly, after veering off the track and into the run-off area. ‘I can’t go on the throttle,’ he said over the radio, trying to back up. He immediately realised the serious mistake he had made and cried out, ‘No!’
Leclerc’s lead over Verstappen after three races was 46 points in an extraordinary run to begin the season.
Ferrari has committed four mistakes in the opening six races (two engine failures and two miscalculated strategies that resulted in a loss of positions), but now Leclerc has made a significant error, coupling it with the small error that turned third position into sixth at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in April.
Comfortable Win for Verstappen
Leclerc’s error left Verstappen pretty much alone at the front. The safety car was used to clear away the wrecked Ferrari, giving Verstappen’s pursuers a chance to catch up to him.
Verstappen began the restart with a small lead over Lewis Hamilton, but he soon started to pull away again.
At the beginning of the race, Hamilton jumped Perez and moved into third place, maintaining the Mexican at bay until the early laps had passed before establishing a three-second advantage. After Leclerc crashed and the safety car appeared, the situation changed.
Sainz and Russell battled for the final spot on the podium, as Hamilton left Perez behind to finish the race comfortably ahead of them.
Hamilton said that he had to push really hard because his fluids container wasn’t working, yet he was delighted with the outcome, given how far behind these competitors he had been throughout the weekend.
Fight for Podium Finishes
Despite starting from the back row because of a grid penalty for using too many engine parts, Sainz was on the tail of the Mercedes and Perez after the safety car.
Sainz’s Ferrari overtook Russell before going after Perez, but he was questioning whether he should make a second pit stop after executing an inverted tyre strategy. Sainz battled with Perez through the final sector of the lap before being called into the pits by his engineer.
“Not now,” Sainz said, before claiming third place.
Sainz wished he’d been able to pull away from Perez on fresh tyres after pitting two laps later but was surprised that the team requested the same. The team believed his medium tyres would not last the remainder of the race, but Sainz disagreed.
Sainz battled back past the McLarens of first Daniel Ricciardo and then Lando Norris, and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso after the pit stop dropped him down to seventh.
On lap 41 at the Mistral chicane, Russell of Mercedes tried to get up alongside Perez, but Perez cut the chicane and the stewards did not order him to give up his position, which Russell disagreed with.
However, with three laps to go, Russell capitalised on Perez’s lapse at Turn six when the virtual safety car was deployed after Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu stopped at turn six.
Russell got a better start and was able to get ahead of Perez on Turn 14’s twisting straight. Russell held on to finish third despite Perez coming back at him on the last lap after a mistake by Mercedes driver Russell.
Alonso secured sixth place by a superb move at the first corner, where he overtook both Russell and Norris to run fifth initially, and then clever tyre management afterwards.
Norris was next to finish followed by Ocon, Ricciardo and Lance Stroll, who gained the final point, and Sebastian Vettel.
Williams Racing Performance
Alex Albon finish 13th and Nicholas Latifi did not finish after a collision with Kevin Magnussen on lap 38.
What they said:
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance:
The hot conditions made for tough race with all drivers needing to manage the cars and tyres throughout. The safety car was temptingly timed but did make for a tricky long final stint on the Prime tyres. Our cars were too close to each other to be able stop both on the same lap and so Nicky did an extra lap, which meant that he didn’t get the full advantage of pitting behind the safety car.
Both drivers managed the race well but unfortunately Nicky had to retire following a puncture and extensive car damage. Alex was able to battle to the end but had to manage his fuel and tyres against quicker cars and wasn’t able to fight for the points.
It was good to get a lot of extra racing laps on the new package and all the data and feedback collected will help us at the remaining races
It was tricky out there today but more enjoyable. We were in contention for most of the race and were looking close to the points – we were a bit down on pace and were using a lot of the tyres to try to stay close, and it just fell away from us towards the end. We’ll look at the data and hopefully we can improve week on week as we were quite quick in qualifying. We’ll look at it and see what we can do better for Hungary.
There are a lot of positives to take from today. The pace was competitive, especially in dirty air, and I was racing cars that I haven’t been racing against all year so that’s been nice. I definitely don’t think I was at fault for the incident with Kevin, it was maybe more of a racing incident. The incident was a shame as our pace was strong and we were racing out of position against cars that we were quite a bit quicker than. Being further up in qualifying would have made a difference, but it’s nice to get racing again. I take the confidence in that pace from the upgrade and I feel that the season is getting back on track and we can make a proper start now.
France Grand Prix Results
|Track: Circuit Paul Ricard, France||Lap Length: 5.842 km|
|Pos||Driver||Team||Time/Gap (Fastest Lap)||Grid||Tyre Changes|
|1.||M. Verstappen||Oracle Red Bull Racing||1:30:02:112|
|13.||A. Albon||Williams Racing|| |
|DNF||N. Latifi||Williams Racing||DNF|
2022 FIA Formula One World Championship Schedule
|1||20-Mar-22||Bahrain Grand Prix||Bahrain IC, Sakhir|
|2||27-Mar-22||Saudi Arabia Grand Prix||Jeddah Street Circuit, Jeddah|
|3||10-Apr-22||Australian Grand Prix||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne|
|4||24-Apr-22||Emilia Romagna Grand Prix||Imola|
|5||08-May-22||Miami Grand Prix||Miami International Autodrome, Miami|
|6||22-May-22||Spanish Grand Prix||Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona|
|7||29-May-22||Monaco Grand Prix||Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|8||12-Jun-22||Azerbaijan Grand Prix||Baku City Circuit, Baku|
|9||19-Jun-22||Canadian Grand Prix||Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal|
|10||03-Jul-22||British Grand Prix||Silverstone|
|11||10-Jul-22||Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg|
|12||24-Jul-22||French Grand Prix||Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet|
|13||31-Jul-22||Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring, Mogyorod|
|14||28-Aug-22||Belgian Grand Prix||Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps|
|15||04-Sep-22||Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort|
|16||11-Sep-22||Italian Grand Prix||Monza|
|17||02-Oct-22||Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay, Singapore|
|18||09-Oct-22||Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka|
|19||23-Oct-22||United States Grand Prix||Circuit of the Americas, Austin|
|20||30-Oct-22||Mexican Grand Prix||Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City|
|21||13-Nov-22||Brazilian Grand Prix||Interlagos, Sao Paulo|
|22||20-Nov-22||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi|