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Max Verstappen

Verstappen storms to French GP victory after Leclerc crashes out

Max Verstappen strengthened his advantage in the 2022 F1 title race as he capitalised on Charles Leclerc's costly retirement with victory in France.

France start
To news overview © XPB

Max Verstappen took another important step in his quest to retain the F1 world title as he cruised to victory in Sunday's French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.

Red Bull driver Verstappen ran second to Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc early on but moved into the lead when the Monegasque dramatically crashed out of proceedings.

With a potentially fascinating strategic battle over, Verstappen was unchallenged en route to his seventh win of the season, bolstering his points lead in the process.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell gave Mercedes a surprise double podium finish on what was an otherwise difficult weekend for the team, as they capitalised on the drama around them.

Russell cleverly jumped ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez after a late Virtual Safety Car period, although the latter radioed his team to claim that track limits were breached in the process.

Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five positions as he recovered from the back of the grid and his engine-related penalties to salvage something for Ferrari.

Result Race - French

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Leclerc and Verstappen go to battle early on

When the lights went out in baking hot conditions, Leclerc reacted well to bolt off the line and keep Verstappen at bay during the run down to the first corner.

Behind, Hamilton enjoyed a similarly strong start to clear Perez and take a look up the inside of Verstappen, before backing out and holding P3.

Leclerc initially managed to build a one-second lead over Verstappen, but it did not take long for the Dutchman to close back in and get use of DRS.

As the race developed, Verstappen had several DRS-assisted runs on Leclerc, the Ferrari struggling to cope with the Red Bull's superior straight-line speed.

However, after a handful of laps running in dirty air, unable to make a move, Verstappen dropped back out of DRS range and attention turned to the pit-stops.

Leclerc dramatically crashes out of the lead

Verstappen was the first to blink on Lap 16 of 53, swapping his Medium tyres for Hards and coming out in seventh position.

But just as the questions started over whether Leclerc would react to Verstappen or go longer, the Ferrari man slid into the barriers and out of the race.

Leclerc lost control of his car through the high-speed Turn 11, screaming over the radio in frustration and making reference to his throttle pedal.

With Leclerc unharmed, the Safety Car was deployed between Lap 18 and 20, providing an opportunity for cars behind to pit for fresh rubber.

When the action resumed, Red Bull and Mercedes occupied the top four positions, with Verstappen leading from Hamilton, Perez and Russell.

From there, Verstappen and Hamilton had comfortable runs to P1 and P2, while Perez and Russell embarked on a scrap for third – the Mexican at one stage cutting the Turn 8/9 chicane as they went wheel-to-wheel.

After Zhou Guanyu's late retirement, and the subsequent VSC period, Russell caught Perez napping at the restart to finally get the job done.

However, it remains to be seen whether the stewards will take action over Russell after several track limits complaints from Perez.

			© XPB Images
	© XPB Images

Sainz's recovery halted by a late stop

Sainz had briefly worked his way into the top five on his recovery charge, only to be called into the pits for a second time shortly after passing Perez for P3.

Having dropped back to fifth, Sainz was left to question Ferrari's strategy, commenting over the team radio: "I don't understand..."

Sainz also served a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release at his first stop, though did claim the bonus point for fastest lap.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon gave Alpine a double points score on home soil in sixth and eighth respectively, with McLaren pair Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo seventh and ninth.

That was despite Ocon being hit with a five-second penalty for clashing with Yuki Tsunoda on the opening lap of the race.

The final point of the day went to Lance Stroll after he came out on top in an exciting scrap with Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel to the flag.

In addition to Ocon, Zhou was given a five-second penalty, having banged wheels with Mick Schumacher before his retirement.

Tsunoda retired due to the damage his car sustained in the clash with Ocon, with Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi doing the same after a clash of their own.

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