Verstappen takes easy win at France as Leclerc crashes out

By Steven De Groote on

Max Verstappen easily won today’s French Grand Prix after his main title rival Charles Leclerc crashed out from the lead in the first half of the race. Mercedes optimised the opportunity and complete the podium with Hamilton finished second and Russell third.

Hot conditions greeted the drivers for the French Grand Prix, immediately triggering some worries about tyres as well. Though air temperature was at 30°C, the clier skies and burning sun ended up heating the track to 55°C.

On the starting grid nearly everybody chose to take on fresh medium tyres. Only Bottas, Gasly and Sainz (starting from 19th due to engine penalties) chose hard tyres. Also, curiously, both Aston Martins started on used mediums.

The start of the race was fairly straightforward for the front runners and even though Hamilton at a moment looked to challenge Verstappen, he backed out of it and followed up in third, still gaining a position to Perez. Leclerc and Verstappen in front maintained their starting positions.

Fernando Alonso meanwhile had a great start and moved past Russell and Norris into 5th place. Russell maintained 6th as Norris lost two places, ending up just ahead of his teammate as Ricciardo moved up a spot. Ocon held position but gained a spot when he bumped into Tsunoda, dropping the latter to the back of the pack.

Lance Stroll had a most impressive start, from 15th to 10, ending up ahead of Vettel. Magnussen and Schumacher also gained numerous places in their Haas cars while Carlos Sainz seemed to take a cautious approach and gradually gained positions in the first laps of the race, rather than passing a lot of cars at the start.

Verstappen held on very well and on lap 4 ended up challenging Leclerc for the lead. By then, Russell got past Alonso again for 5th while Sainz found himself in 14th place.

Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was the first to make a pitstop, switching to hard tyres on lap 8. Zhou, Schumacher and Tsunoda followed soon as the other 16 drivers went on considerably longer.

Position changes at the front were nowhere to be found once positions settled after the start. Verstappen seemed close to an overtake several times but dropped behind and lost DRS on lap 12. Perez also backed down from Hamilton after following closely for several laps. The only driver to make progress was Sainz who progressed into 10th by lap 15 and up to 9th the next lap by taking Ricciardo in the straight ahead of Turn 8.

Verstappen was the first of the front runners to pit on lap 16. A quick tyre change saw him end up in sixth place, 3.5 seconds behind Alonso.. Verstappen was told to push, but after two purple sectors Leclerc veered off the track in the quick Turn 11. The rear simply broke away, sent him in a spin and resulted in a head-on crash. On the radio, Leclerc furiously blamed a problem with the throttle, a problem he already suffered at the Austrian Grand Prix as well. The Monegasque however later confirmed in interviews that his crash was not caused by a technical issue with the throttle.

A safety car was the result and along with it numerous pitstops. Only Vettel and Latifi opted not to pit to then do it anyways the next lap under the SC.

On lap 20 the race was on again. Verstappen led ahead of Hamilton, Perez, Russell, Alonso, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Ocon and Stroll. Sainz, now on fresh medium tyres soon moved past Norris and Alonso to continue his fight through the field. To temper his mood, the Spaniard was also handed a 5s penalty for an unsafe release during his pitstop. Indeed, Ferrari totally screwed up Sainz’s stop as a problem with the front right resulted in a sudden release of the car as soon as the wheel was properly fixed. In their hurry, the front jack man didn’t check the oncoming Williams resulting in a deserved penalty, but one that Sainz couldn’t do anything about.

Passing Russell was a bit more tricky but the pass through Turn 10 stuck. Sainz went on to quickly close the gap to Perez but as his tyres were wearing a bit it proved impossible to pass. Still, one lap later, just when Ferrari told Carlos to pit he made it past Perez. The Spaniard replied “no no” and then pitted two laps later after rapidly pulling a gap.

The move made Perez lose a bit of time, dropping him in the path of Russell who immediately attempted an overtake. Perez went straight on and said “he pushed me off the track” while Russell went on to ventilate his frustration about this on the radio. He ended up so angry that Toto Wolff intervened to ask George to get his head down and try again.

Then Zhou retired from the race, leading to a two-lap VSC period. During this period Perez appeared to open a bit of a gap on Russell which bit him back on the restart when Perez had to back out a bit to make sure he stayed above the VSC laptime limit. Russell on the other hand was able to speed up earlier and could easily snatch third place away from the Mexican Red Bull driver.

In the end this ended up being an easy win for Verstappen paired with a double podium finish for Mercedes. Leclerc’s DNF removes yet more steam out of his championship challenge, allowing Verstappen to build up a considerable lead.


Pos. No. Driver Car Laps Time Pts
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Rbpt 53 1:30:02.112 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 +10.587s 18
3 63 George Russell Mercedes 53 +16.495s 15
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Rbpt 53 +17.310s 12
5 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 53 +28.872s 11
6 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 53 +42.879s 8
7 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 53 +52.026s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 53 +56.959s 4
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo Mclaren Mercedes 53 +60.372s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 53 +62.549s 1
11 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 53 +64.494s 0
12 10 Pierre Gasly Alphatauri Rbpt 53 +65.448s 0
13 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 53 +68.565s 0
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 53 +76.666s 0
15 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 53 +80.394s 0
16 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 47 DNF 0
NC 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 40 DNF 0
NC 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 37 DNF 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 17 DNF 0
NC 22 Yuki Tsunoda Alphatauri Rbpt 17 DNF 0

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