Verstappen extends title lead after Leclerc crash woe in French Grand Prix

By Sports Desk July 24, 2022

Max Verstappen extended his advantage at the top of the championship to 63 points with victory at the French Grand Prix after Charles Leclerc crashed while leading.

Leclerc's latest retirement may prove to be the final dent in his 2022 title ambitions, with Verstappen looking to be heading into clean air as he bids to win back-to-back F1 championships.

The Dutchman finished over 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in what turned into a routine win, while George Russell took third to secure Mercedes' first double-podium of the season.

A strong start from Hamilton saw him leapfrog Sergio Perez on the opening lap and put Verstappen under pressure, though the reigning champion defended well to remain ahead of his pursuer.

The Red Bull's advantage in straight-line speed saw Verstappen stick right on the gearbox of Leclerc in the opening 10 laps, but he was unable to make a move, with the aggressive approach potentially harming the longevity of his tyres and altering the team's plans.

Verstappen was the first of the leading pack to pit at the end of lap 16, taking hard tyres, with Leclerc staying out and appearing to be on a one-stop strategy, but there was misery for the title hopeful just two laps later.

For the third time this season, Leclerc retired while leading a grand prix, smashing into the tyre wall. A safety car was deployed as Verstappen took the lead – with Ferrari's woes increasing as Carlos Sainz was issued a five-second penalty for an unsafe release after he pitted under the safety car.

Ferrari's instability continued to be evident towards the end of lap 41 when Sainz made an overtaking move on Perez to claim third place while his team called for him to pit, which then came at the end of the following lap – serving his penalty and coming out ninth.

Russell, having collided with Perez, was unhappy he was not given the third-place position back after the stewards decided no investigation was necessary, but the Mercedes man took advantage of a slow reaction from Perez after a virtual safety car restart to snatch the final podium spot.

Au revoir Paul Ricard

Though yet to be confirmed, it is widely expected that the French Grand Prix will be removed from the calendar next year, with the 2022 race bringing the end of Formula One's contract with the Circuit Paul Ricard.

F1 owners Liberty Media have made a clear push to grow the motorsport in the United States, with the introduction of Miami and Las Vegas, while there is a continued desire to add more modern street circuits to the schedule.

That has seen the likes of the Circuit Paul Ricard, Monza, Spa and even Monaco shrouded in speculation, though there may still be an avenue for each to feature moving forward with a rotation of venues.

Perfect plan falls apart

Ahead of this weekend, Leclerc was adamant he was still in the title battle, but he admitted the team would need a 'perfect' finish to the season – which came apart at the first hurdle with another retirement.

Now well adrift of Verstappen in the championship, Leclerc's title ambitions look to be dead in the water with 10 races remaining this season, and he took full responsibility for the incident in what was far from the weekend that Ferrari wanted.


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
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


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 233
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 170
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 163
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 144
5. George Russell (Mercedes) 143


1. Red Bull 396
2. Ferrari 314
3. Mercedes 270
4. Alpine 93
5. McLaren 89

Related items

  • Russell seeking Djokovic advice on sporting longevity Russell seeking Djokovic advice on sporting longevity

    George Russell says he has been picking the brains of tennis great Novak Djokovic in a bid to ensure longevity in Formula One.

    The Mercedes driver is aiming to reach the pinnacle of his sport and remain there for a sustained period of time, something achieved by 24-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic.

    A two-time Grand Prix winner - including in Austria this year - Russell has sought inspiration from the Serbian in recent years, as he looks to follow suit in the F1 World Championship.

    And the 26-year-old, who was at Wimbledon for Djokovic's final showdown with Carlos Alcaraz last weekend, gave a brief insight into his learnings.

    "We've shared ideas together, and he's been really open with me about things he's trying and what's working for him," Russell said.

    "I don't want to share too much because they are private conversations, but I just really like how he's constantly wanting to learn more and that inspires me to learn more about myself, what works for me, what works for them and pushing the boundaries.

    "There's a lot that he knows that I won't and vice versa, and you've got to take all these ideas from the best in each profession and see what you can take for yourself.

    "I feel fit, healthy and in a great place right now at the age of 26, but I need to make sure that I'm fit, healthy and as motivated in 10 years' time, 15 years' time, who knows 20 years’ time. I'm trying to put in work now."

    Russell occupies seventh place in the 2024 drivers' championship standings ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, where he finished fifth in the second practice session on Friday.

    Lando Norris led the way with an impressive time of 1:17.788 seconds, 0.243 seconds ahead of leader Max Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz taking third on a day where the action was interrupted following Charles Leclerc's earlier crash.

    The Ferrari driver spun into the barriers after taking too much kerb at Turn 4, but thankfully was unhurt.

  • 'I don't think it's unfair' - Norris feels British GP criticism justified 'I don't think it's unfair' - Norris feels British GP criticism justified

    Lando Norris acknowledged the criticism aimed at him and McLaren following last weekend's British Grand Prix was justified.

    The Briton was leading ahead of the final round of pit stops at Silverstone, and looking on course to close the gap on drivers' championship leader Max Verstappen.

    However, eventual winner Lewis Hamilton undercut Norris, who overran his pit box after McLaren were unable to bring him in at an ideal time.

    After McLaren opted for soft tyres during the race's climax, Norris was then surpassed by Verstappen, and had to settle for a third-place finish.

    While the 24-year-old understands the scrutiny he and the team came under, he feels the most important thing is the way they respond at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

    "No, not at all, it just depends on how you take it," he told Sky Sports. "I don't think it's unfair because you're always going to have it, that's life.

    "People are going to criticise you, people are going to support you, people are going to make mistakes. We're not the only team. There have been times when Red Bull should have won and didn't and Mercedes should have won and didn't.

    "At the same time, we didn't blame anyone but ourselves, and it's a tough one because it hurts when you lose your home race, you have a chance to win and those types of things.

    "But it's more about how you and we as a team handled it, how we learned from it, we reviewed things, and we come back stronger this weekend and for the future races.

    "So, plenty of things to learn, but I'm confident with our team. I think we always accept criticism. Especially when it's constructive, you prefer that way, but you are always going to have people who are supporting and not supporting you.

    "How you use that and how you turn it into something positive is the main thing."

  • 'Game on' for improving Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix, says Hamilton 'Game on' for improving Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix, says Hamilton

    Lewis Hamilton has declared it is "game on" for Mercedes at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix as the Silver Arrows target a third straight win.

    Mercedes endured a dismal start to 2024 as the team suffered teething problems with their W15 car, but recent upgrades have led to a major upturn.

    George Russell triumphed at the Austrian Grand Prix three weeks ago, before Hamilton secured a record-breaking ninth victory at the British Grand Prix a week later.

    Mercedes are now just seven points adrift of second-placed Ferrari in the constructors' championship standings, and Hamilton is confident in their chances at the Hungaroring, where he has a record eight wins.

    "We definitely don't want to get ahead of ourselves, that's key in our approach," Hamilton said. "But also, we're like, 'it's game on!

    "We're fighting, we're chasing, and we're going to try and win as many races as George mentioned or compete for as many wins as possible.

    "It may turn out this weekend that the Red Bull is still light years ahead, or the McLaren is, who knows? 

    "We are united as a team and we are going to try and make sure we finish this season on a high.

    "If we can lift the team up in the ladder of constructors, if we can progress – we are not too far off the drivers up ahead of us – then that will be great."

    Three of the last four races have seen both Hamilton and Russell finish inside the top four, after neither of the duo managed such a finish in the first eight races of the season.

    "If you told us at the start of the year we'd be fighting for three wins in a row, we wouldn't have believed it," Russell said.

    "We have led the last four races since the upgrades, which is an incredible turnaround for us and everyone is super motivated."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.