Max Verstappen delivered a commanding performance to win the 2022 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard
Max Verstappen dominated the French Grand Prix after race leader Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari slipped from his control on Lap 18. Entering the high-speed Le Beausset, the Monegasque’s F1-75 snapped sideways and slammed into the barriers.
Leclerc was out on the spot.
Verstappen was left to take an unchallenged victory, with an eventual margin of 10.587s over runner-up Lewis Hamilton.
His victory was a significant step toward his second Formula One world championship, while title rival Leclerc’s championship title hopes dimmed dramatically.
Verstappen’s 27th career win matches victories with Sir Jackie Stewart. The Dutchman’s French title is the sixth in the last nine races and seventh this season. He is the first driver to win here from below pole position since the race returned in 2018.
The victory extends Verstappen’s lead over Leclerc, who remains second in the championship, to 63 points, with ten races remaining. Having been 46 points behind Leclerc in Australia’s third round, this latest result indicates just how consistent both Verstappen and Red Bull have been over all but two of the last nine races.
In his 300th Formula One career appearance, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton put in an impressive drive to second while teammate George Russell won a thrilling duel with Sergio Perez to claim third, creating Mercedes’ first double podium of the 2022 season.
Finishing in fifth place, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz produced a memorable performance. The Spaniard started last following an engine penalty, surging from 19th on the grid to third. His Ferrari also received a five-second penalty for his team’s unsafe release from his first pitstop.
Nevertheless, Sainz remained relentless, pitting again for mediums on Lap 43, re-passing both Alpines and McLarens to finish fifth at the chequered flag.
Alonso (Alpine) finished sixth, Norris (McLaren) seventh and Ocon (Alpine) eighth. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) surged to claim ninth. The Aston Martins fought for the final point, with Stroll squeezing ahead of an annoyed Sebastian Vettel.
Charles Leclerc secured pole position for the 2022 French Grand Prix with help from team-mate Carlos Sainz, who would start at the back of the Grand Prix grid due to engine replacement penalties.
Ferrari topped all three qualifying segments, with Leclerc taking Q1 and then Sainz best in Q2.
Sainz’s engine penalties meant he could sacrifice his qualifying times to be used to slipstream Leclerc up the Mistral straight on his flying laps. The scheme worked perfectly.
Sainz’s final slipstream tow helped Leclerc improve by 0.337sec with a 1min 30.872sec, leaving Verstappen in second place, 0.304sec slower than his championship rival.
Hamilton managed a time within a second of Leclerc to go fourth, ahead of Norris and Mercedes teammate Russell.
Leclerc seized the lead at lights out, and into Turn 1, with Verstappen holding off the very rapid Lewis Hamilton, who jumped to third at Perez’s expense. The Brit thought better before starting a wheel-to-wheel battle with the Dutchman at the opening chicane. Fernando Alonso had an even more explosive start, rocketing from P7 to P5 while passing Russell and both McLarens.
Verstappen kept close to Charles Leclerc but remained outside the DRS activation 1sec gap by Lap 3.
Further down the field, Kevin Magnussen, who started last due to engine penalties, jumped to 12th from 20th while dodging a collision between Alpine’s Ocon ( 5sec penalty ) and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
By Lap 4, Verstappen, thanks to his speed on the Mistral Straight, had closed to within a second of Leclerc. Two laps later, Leclerc gave Verstappen a brief opportunity to close in as the Monegasque caught his Ferrari’s snap of oversteer through the chicane.
He continued to stick with the Ferrari through the next lap but still couldn’t find a way past. Unfortunately, Leclerc’s “snap” would return with a vengeance.
By Lap 8, Perez received a second track limit warning as he clawed for a way to past Hamilton, now the fastest man on track. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz was riding the Scuderia’s F1-75 rocket through the field to 12th from 19th.
Beginning on Lap 12, Leclerc began solidifying his lead from Verstappen to more than a second as the Monegasque found both ends of his Ferrari finally working in tandem.
Leclerc continued to increase his margin up to as much as 1.9sec by Lap 16. Verstappen saw that pace as time to replace his medium Pirellis. The Dutchman pitted take the hard rubber, rejoining in seventh from Norris to go for the undercut while Leclerc stayed out.
On Lap 17, Verstappen passed Norris for sixth just as Sainz passed Daniel Ricciardo for ninth. Then, within a few seconds, everything changed.
Leclerc lost his Ferrari’s rear after entering the fast right-hand Le Beausset, spinning off and ending up nose first in the tyre barriers.
The Monegasque sent a devastating scream over the radio as he struggled to reverse his car from the wall, but it was already too late – he was out on the spot.
The safety car came out, and most of the field pitted for a “free” tyre stop, including Sainz, Hamilton, Perez and Russell. All three drivers were stationary for over three seconds in their respective stops as Verstappen inherited the lead.
At the restart on Lap 21, Verstappen led into Turn 1, with Hamilton, Perez and Russell following nose to tail. Sainz was now seriously on the move, passing Norris into the Montreal chicane for sixth. The Spaniard attacked Alonso next, streaking past the Alpine on Lap 23.
Ferrari informed Sainz he received a 5sec penalty for his team’s unsafe release in front of Alex Albon during the safety car period.
Sainz, however, was now on a mission with plenty of speed and grip. “I am quicker than these guys,” he radioed.
By Lap 26, Verstappen led by 3.3s from Hamilton as Sainz closed to within a second of Russell for fourth. The Spaniard would sweep round the outside of Signes to pass Russell four laps later.
Nine laps later, Sainz went wheel-to-wheel with Perez – shouting “not now!” to his pit wall as they radioed him to box just as the Spaniard drew alongside the Mexican. Sainz remained in control, taking P2 off Perez entering the final corner.
Sainz pitted on the next lap, served his five-second penalty for the previous unsafe release and took a new set of mediums, dropping from third place to seventh.
The Spaniard resumed his attack. By Lap 46, he had retaken Norris for sixth and passed Alonso two laps later. Certainly Driver of the Day.
Russell was also driving with his “hair on fire”, sensing third place. He closed in on the Perez’ Red Bull on Lap 42 and made contact with the Mexican going into Turn 8. Perez’ held his position; Russell’s pit wall quieted his vocal protests and 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 to hunt of Perez, now vulnerable on his worn hard compounds.
Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo stopped on track at the end of Lap 49, triggering the Virtual Safety Car lights.
Perez and Russell each readied for lights out, with the Brit getting the jump as the safety period ended on Lap 50 to take third.
Verstappen, meanwhile, led comfortably until the end of the race with an eventual margin of 10.587s over runner-up Hamilton.