Disaster Ferrari leads Verstappen to French GP victory
Verstappen eases away to another victory after Leclerc crashes out, ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Charles Leclerc held his pole advantage on the run to Turn 1, leading Verstappen, Hamilton, Sergio Perez and a fast-starting Fernando Alonso. Contact happened between Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda on the opening lap, for which Ocon got a 5s time penalty.
Verstappen got into Leclerc’s DRS range from start and was always in range. He got close but being unable to get past Leclerc, Verstappen stopped attacking and reverted on staying close to his title rival.
The dutchman was first to pit at the end of Lap 16 but Leclerc didn’t respond and stayed out. That turned out to be super costly strategy as he lost grip of the rear of his car, spun and crashed into the tyre wall two laps later, causing a safety car. Verstappen’s race was event free from that point, cruising to his 27th career win and a huge lead in championship.
Max Verstappen: “I think we had really good pace. Following on, the tyres were overheating, I could only for go one more pit. We tried to stay calm. And from there onward you never how the race how it goes. Unlucky for Charles, I hope he’s Ok. It was all about looks after the tyres.”
Charles Leclerc said after the crash “We’ll add things up at the end of the season, but if we’re 25 or 30 points short at the season I can only blame myself I couldn’t go into reverse, but those are small details. You just can’t put a car into the wall.”
Behind Verstappen, Hamilton took early lead from 4th to 3rd over Sergio Perez in start. He kept the position and was putting good lap times compared to front runners. Hamilton pitted for a free stop and stayed in 2nd behind Verstappen despite a slow stop. The Mercedes looked better in race pace than it had in qualifying, as has been the case before this season but not enough to challenge Verstappen who had 10 second gap in finish line.
Lewis Hamilton “This is the biggest crowd we have had out here. This was a tough race and my water bottle didn’t work. A huge congratulations to the team back home and to the two factories. George did an amazing job. I don’t see my weight but I probably lost around three kilos. I hope everyone back home has had an amazing Sunday. Budapest, it’s going to be hard to beat the Red Bulls.”
Behind him, his teammate Russell enjoyed a feisty battle with Pérez, and the pair clashed on lap 43, both convinced they were in the right but the stewards deemed it as racing incident. The British driver made an excellent launch to snatch 3rd after a late virtual safety car restart and defended brilliantly till the end for final podium place.
George Russell: “It was a long race, a tough race. Checo was all over me. I was glad to see that chequered flag, He didn’t really leave me much space.”
Behind Russell, Segio Pérez had a rather disappointing 4th after he was looking to get a podium. He looked out of pace the whole weekend, and it continued in the race. Early in the race he lost 3rd to Hamilton despite much higher straight-line speed. He could not manage to keep up, and was eventually passed by Sainz and Russel, A penalty and pitstop however helped Pérez to be ahead of Sainz.
Carlos Sainz ended up 11.5s behind Perez after a controversial late pitstop, but clear of Alonso and Norris. He made extraordinary recovery and some good moves on his way from 19th to 5th, on a track which is not friendly for overtaking.
His former teammate, Lando Norris had bit of a slow start in the beginning, losing to Russell and Alonso with super quick reaction. The McLaren could not challenge the Alpine later in the race. These points are vital for championship also, as both teams are fighting in constructor’s table.
Behind them Ocon came out 8th and Ricciardo took ninth with Stroll taking the final point, despite Sebastian Vettel getting very close to nipping ahead on the last lap.