Verstappen takes huge lead as Leclerc’s crash halts Ferrari’s fightback before it begins

2022 French Grand Prix review

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Whether it’s cycling or Formula 1, not everything can always go to plan when you’re racing.

Across the opening two days in Paul Ricard, Ferrari and their two drivers – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr – had executed their weekend’s strategy to perfection.

Taking the tactical hit of a power unit penalty, Sainz was the consummate domestique for his team mate on Saturday, towing Leclerc to pole position with a slipstream that the riders of the Tour de France racing some 700 kilometres away in Paris would have been proud of.

After snapping a win-less streak of almost three months at Silverstone, Ferrari were beginning to look like they would chip away at Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s imposing championship lead heading into the summer break. In Austria and Great Britain, Leclerc had edged closer towards his key rival.

But by Sunday evening, Leclerc’s championship hopes looked more remote than ever.

Race start, Paul Ricard, 2022
Leclerc led away while Hamilton pinched third from Perez
Lining up on the scorching, 51C asphalt with Verstappen and Red Bull wingman Sergio Perez alongside him, Leclerc knew just how vulnerable he was on the 500-metre run to the first corner. But when the lights went out, both he and Verstappen leapt off the line together like two sprinters launching a breakaway from the chasing pack.

Perez behind reacted equally well, but wheelspin in the second phase of the start robbed his momentum and allowed second-row starter Lewis Hamilton to breeze past him and fill Verstappen’s mirrors on the approach to the braking zone. Fernando Alonso scooped up two places on George Russell and Lando Norris through sheer stubbornness, planting his Alpine to the inside approaching turn one and refusing to yield.

Leclerc led Verstappen, Hamilton and Perez as the pack entered the segmented Mistral Straight for the first time, already splintering into various groups. In the middle of the pack Esteban Ocon pulled well alongside Yuki Tsunoda approaching the chicane but appeared to lose grip at the apex, sliding into the unfortunate AlphaTauri and sending him spinning. Ocon, one of two local drivers in the field, was punished with a five-second time penalty for his error.

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Crossing the line to begin the second lap, the top five were evenly spread out, a second apart. After starting last, Kevin Magnussen was remarkably ahead of his team mate in 13th having somehow gained seven places in one lap. Sainz, who shared the back row with the Haas driver, had started on hard tyres and only gained a position from the fuming Tsunoda.

Verstappen couldn’t get close enough to pass at the chicane
All the talk before the race had been about how to avoid burning up tyres on the blistering track, so it was little surprise when Verstappen was instructed to go “straight into management” before the end of the first lap, setting the tempo for the first stint. Leclerc and Verstappen pulled away from Hamilton behind them by running in the 1’38s, while Hamilton either refused or was unable to break out of the 1’39s, frustrating Perez behind him as he struggled with traction.

Verstappen stayed within DRS range of Leclerc, who dragged him along the straights, keeping him close to striking range over the lap. Heading down the first half of the Mistral on lap six, race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Verstappen that he was closer to Leclerc than he had ever been approaching the chicane. When Leclerc wobbled at the apex, Lambiase authorised Verstappen to go to “mode seven”, allowing him to slipstream the Ferrari through Signes and look to the outside of Beausset. However, that line did not offer Verstappen a route through to the lead.

“I thought he would be faster,” Verstappen admitted after the race. “I thought it would be very hard to follow. But immediately, I could see that our balance was not bad. But again, it can also be just managing a bit, but it looked like we were very competitive.”

After Verstappen’s speculative look on lap six did not get him past Leclerc, Red Bull decided it was time to focus on preserving his tyre life. “The field isn’t spreading out that quickly at this stage,” Lambiase explained, “so just keep at it – looking after the tyres.”

Gradually, Leclerc began inching away, eventually pulling out of DRS range by the end of lap 13. By now they held a seven-second gap to Hamilton behind, Perez still unable to get the surely slower Mercedes out of his vision and into his mirrors. Half a minute back from the leader, Sainz had passed half of the field and was already up to tenth.

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Completing the 15th lap, Red Bull played their hand. Verstappen was called in for a set of hard tyres before being set on his way, rejoining the track in seventh behind Norris, who he quickly dispatched at Beausset with a comically easy pass.

Although he faced a lengthy, 38-lap stint on his hard tyres, Verstappen’s mind was on anything but nursing the rubber to the flag. “Can you let me know please if he’s in or not, so I know how to push?” he asked. “You need to push, now. You do need to push,” Lambiase insisted.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022
Leclerc retired from the lead once again
But the leader was also pushing, back in the 1’38s consistently once again. As Verstappen turned the timing screens purple, Leclerc was doing whatever he could to wring what pace was left out of his medium tyres.

Then, suddenly and without warning, Ferrari’s carefully-executed strategy was torn up by a single – and seemingly avoidable – driving error.

On lap 18, Leclerc dived deep into Beausset as he so often had all weekend, but this time – for whatever reason – things did not go according to plan. As Leclerc pirouetted into the tyre wall, the impact itself may have been relatively minor but it was a yet another hammer blow to his championship ambitions which seemed to be dissipating into the air like the smoke from his scorched tyres.

Leclerc, unaware his radio was still on, let loose a primal scream of anguish and frustration which was so raw and so loud Verstappen might have heard it as he passed the crash scene. “Oh, fuck!” exclaimed the Red Bull driver as he saw what had happened. “He’s alright?”

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Thankfully, Leclerc appeared to be physically unharmed from the shunt, even if his pride had been. “I feel like I’m performing at probably the highest level of my career since the beginning of the season,” he explained when RaceFans asked him about the crash, “but there’s no point of performing at a very high level if then I do those mistakes.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Paul Ricard, 2022
Verstappen couldn’t be caught after the restart
With a car in the barrier, the Safety Car was scrambled. Suddenly, everyone still on their starting tyres was practically obligated to pit, which the vast majority did. Mercedes double-stacked Hamilton and Russell, while Perez also came in behind them.

Sainz arrived from tenth, but a delay in pulling away from his pit box caused an alarming near-miss. Alexander Albon, who was clearing a tear-off from his visor, reacted quickly enough, slamming on the brakes to avoid a potentially dangerous collision in the busy pit lane.

The Ferrari driver was not concerned. “It was okay, it was not dangerous,” he insisted. However, the stewards determined that it was in fact not okay and clearly unsafe, handing him a five-second time penalty on behalf of his team.

With Leclerc out, the new leaders behind the Safety Car were Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez and Russell, with Sainz now in tenth place on fresh medium tyres while most of those ahead had just replaced theirs with hards. With the inherent traction advantage to be expected from the mediums, Sainz’s exit of the final corner was good enough to allow him to slip by Daniel Ricciardo before even reaching turn one, and he took Norris’s sixth place before they arrived at the chicane on the restart lap.

Verstappen was by no means under pressure at the restart and it was not long before he had drawn out a handy lead to the pursuing Hamilton. Sainz drew alongside Alonso’s Alpine on the run to turn eight, with little legal options available for Alonso to keep the Ferrari behind. Russell in fourth took far more effort to catch, despite being less than two seconds ahead after passing Perez.

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By lap 30, Sainz was close enough to carry momentum out of the chicane and pull out of the slipstream of the Mercedes and alongside on the run to Signes, sweeping by on the outside and into fourth position. Suddenly, having started on the back row of the grid, Sainz was one position away from a potential podium finish with just over half the race gone.

Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022
Sainz was not convinced he needed a second pit stop
Chasing down Perez required Sainz to carefully balance how hard he would lean on his medium tyres and he reeled in the Red Bull at a rate of around four tenths a lap. By lap 36, Sainz was within DRS range, but he quickly realised he was not closing on Perez with his rear wing activated like he had with many of those he’d passed earlier.

“It looks very difficult to pass this guy,” Sainz warned race engineer Riccardo Adami. “Especially with their top speed.”

“We are considering plan A,” Adami responded. “Have a think and let me know, 16 laps to go.”

“We need to decide now,” Sainz urged his team. “But I think it’s difficult.”

Nearly two laps later, Ferrari eventually confirmed to their driver they would go with “plan D”, but they were now sure Perez would be going until the end on his tyres.

“So let’s stop,” Sainz insisted. “If not, we’re not going to have enough laps to catch.”

But despite the Red Bull’s straight-line speed, Sainz was now finding himself able to put Perez under significant pressure. Perez going defensive at the chicane on lap 41 allowed Sainz to have a genuine look around the outside of Signes, but Perez left only a Ferrari’s width’s worth of space as they rounded the bend together at 300km/h as he successfully defended.

As Sainz prepared a counter attack through turn 12, Ferrari told him to peel off into the pits at the next corner. “Not now! Not now!,” Sainz snapped, the racer’s instinct having fully taken over. Positioning his car to the outside of 14 gave him the superior position for the final corner and he dived down the inside and into third place, out-dragging the Red Bull.

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Now past the Red Bull and in a podium position, Sainz told his team he was “happy to go to the end.” Ferrari, however, were not. “We think box now,” Adami replied.

(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Paul Ricard, 2022
Russell eventually found an unexpected way past Perez
So at the end of lap 42 with just 11 laps remaining and having just passed the Red Bull, Sainz peeled off into the pit lane to serve his five- second penalty and switch to a second set of mediums. From being 1.4 seconds ahead of the Red Bull, Sainz remerged in ninth, 31.6 seconds away from the podium position he had just given up.

Sainz moving ahead of Perez – albeit briefly – had allowed Russell to close up behind the Red Bull. With a DRS-boosted slipstream along the Mistral Straight, Russell ate up the four tenths gap until he was almost a car length behind by the time he slammed on the brakes at the 100 metre marker board. Perez squeezed the Mercedes to the inside with Russell’s front wheels three-quarters alongside the Red Bull at the apex, but with so much more momentum the Mercedes bumped the Red Bull into the escape road as Perez held onto the position.

Russell was incredulous. “He just fully turned into me!” he exclaimed. “I was fully inside, he just turned in and I had to take the kerb.”

Russell was adamant he had been wronged and continued to demand restitution. But Mercedes – and, more importantly, the stewards – saw the matter differently. While the stewards declared there was no need to investigate the clash further.

In a rare intervention, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff offered words of encouragement to his driver. “George, keep your head down. You can hunt him down,” he directed.

Further back, Sainz was already up to seventh and easily the fastest car on track, now just under 28 seconds away from Perez. However, the reality that gaining back his third place was now almost an impossibility was dawning on Sainz.

“I don’t understand why we boxed,” he told his team. “We would have pulled away.”

Russell was continuing to pressure Perez, but the Red Bull driver appeared wise to the strengths of the Mercedes and drove accordingly, keeping him at arm’s length. Then, crossing the start line to begin lap 50, the Virtual Safety Car was suddenly deployed due as Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo has stopped on the exit of turn six.

After the marshals quickly pushed Zhou’s car to safety, race control announced the VSC period would be ending as Perez and Russell were half way down the first Mistral Straight. Having built a buffer to his VSC delta, Perez floored it exiting the chicane expecting the track to go green.

However, a system failure caused an unexpected delay which led to all teams getting a second warning about the VSC coming to an end. As Perez slowed to respect the delta out of turn 12, Russell closed back in. He then hit the throttle out of the corner in anticipation of the green flag. By the time the race resumed, Russell was 20km/h faster than Perez, allowing him to shoot past the Red Bull and up into third place.

“I just gunned it when the lights went green and got the run on him and went around the outside at turn 14,” Russell explained after the race. “I just got a really nice run, timed it perfectly.”

With Russell now into the final podium position, the race’s finishing results were set. Out front, Verstappen had been untroubled from the moment he led the field over the line at the Safety Car restart and strolled around Paul Ricard for the final laps to clinch his seventh win of the season and further cement his now commanding position at the top of the drivers’ championship.

Even Verstappen’s race engineer rued the lost fight
But even Red Bull had to admit that Leclerc’s error had robbed them of a potentially exciting afternoon. “Well done Max, well closed off,” said Lambiase after the chequered flag. “Shame – I think it would have been a good race.”

Having got ahead of Perez at the start and kept ahead, Lewis Hamilton had enjoyed a strong, lonely and thirsty afternoon after the Safety Car restart, unable to compete with Verstappen’s pace ahead but free from any pressure behind. Russell held off Perez in the closing laps to claim the final podium position and the first double podium for Mercedes of the season.

“This is progress,” said Hamilton. “Even though we’re not necessarily closing the gap as such in race performance, in actual qualifying performance, but this is great points for us.”

A disgruntled Perez finished fourth, frustrated to have lost a podium after a hardware glitch meant his VSC tactics backfired when they otherwise should have benefited him. Behind, Sainz had to settle for fifth, 11 seconds away from Perez at the chequered flag after all the effort put into passing him on track.

“We were boxed in with strategy there with the tyres not going to the end,” Adami attempted to console his driver after the race. “Not going to the end was tough, I know, but you did what you could.”

“Yeah I know, but we had nothing to lose by staying out,” an unconvinced Sainz responded. Speaking to the media he appeared more inclined to give his team the benefit of the doubt.

Alonso claimed sixth ahead of Norris, followed by their respective team mates Ocon in eighth and Ricciardo ninth. On the final lap, Lance Stroll secured the last point in tenth by robustly holding off team mate Sebastian Vettel.

After a weekend where Ferrari had looked to build momentum heading into the summer break and continue to turn the tide of the title battle against Red Bull, they left Paul Ricard with the prospect of taking the championship seemingly further out of reach than it ever had been.

Verstappen’s championship lead is now 63 points
There had been times when Leclerc had done everything that could have been asked of him only for his car to let him down when he needed it most. But in France, a flawless team performance was thrown away by a simple driver error.

But even with an absurd lead of 63 points, the championship leader refuses to take anything about his seemingly unassailable advantage for granted.

“It’s a great lead, but a lot of things can happen,” said Verstappen. “We need a lot more good results.

“It’s all about scoring points, every single race. Even when it’s not your day.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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60 comments on “Verstappen takes huge lead as Leclerc’s crash halts Ferrari’s fightback before it begins”

  1. The difference between a good driver (Charles) and a real champion (Max) was exposed again this Sunday. Faultless race once more by Max, which is his trademark this year.

    1. T4 Spain.

      1. @stefanauss a small off with no consequences vs a crash-induced DNF (25 points lost) and earlier in the season an off with damage (Imola, 10 points lost).

        Leclerc is obviously a great driver but he cannot afford himself to lose 35 points on driver errors when he has a battle like this on his hands.

        Of course, Ferrari aren’t helping…

        1. @mattds I did not compare LEC and VER driving errors, neither in quality or quantity. I simply offered a fact that disputed the notion that VER has been “faultless” in races this season.

          The fact that it had no consequences for him in race result has absolutely no bearing on it being a driving error, as consequences for driving errors are often circumstantial (LEC later retired: would the time loss prove decisive for position at the end? We won’t ever know; there was a bigger run-off area with gravel and he spun with enough momentum not to beach the car).

          1. You could say it’s circumstantial (that is, all down to luck), but you could also say there is a difference between making significant and insignificant mistakes, and also how you deal with them (since consequences depend on how you react, do you “save it” or “bin it” completely). It’s difficult to judge based on a single incident, but I’d say Verstappen is very consistent on average, possibly more so than any other driver. Leclerc isn’t at the moment, but he is fast. On the other hand, Sainz seems to be significantly more intelligent driver, questioning bad strategies and creating his own, whilst Leclerc only complains after it’s too late. Too bad they can’t be combined into a single person, someone to truly challenge Verstappen this season. After all, Ferrari is the best car, but I wouldn’t bet it will remain so in the future, I’d rather expect to see them being third best again, as long as McLaren, Aston Martin or Alpine don’t make sudden progress.

          2. @stefanauss fair enough. An error is an error!

    2. I feel like we need to give Lec a break. It’s his first time in a championship battle. Max had his share of mistakes to learn from last year. Also he has a few more years experience in f1 over Lec. If there was only driver error without team strategy fails and reliability issues, Lec would still be in it.

      1. Max had his share of mistakes to learn from last year.

        Max made very little mistakes last year that actually cost him points – certainly less than Lewis. That was his first actual title battle and he performed at a very high level.

        Leclerc has 92 starts under his belt – that’s ample experience.

        1. I would agree. His consistency delivered him the championship, finishing all bar 4 races either 1st or 2nd. A stellar achievement, especially since 3 of those non finishes were out of his control. I expected both Ferrari’s to be inconsistent with Sainz more than Charles, which seems to be the case. Both were very mistake prone last season. It has improved though, but needs to be taken to the next level

        2. @mattds I agree about Max’s consistency last season. My objections came from Brazil onwards when Mercedes’ ‘trick’ of giving a fresh engine to Hamilton meant Max came under much greater pressure, combined with Hamilton hitting form, which resulted in some fairly desperate defensive driving from Max, which should have been curbed there and then at Brazil. Instead Masi and co allowed the situation to escalate with the outcomes we all know.
          This season I think Max has been more cautious and a bit off the pace a few weekends. Not much but not the same level as 2021. However – and it’s a big however – he hasn’t made the kind of catastrophic mistake Leclerc has made. Peter Windsor has an intriguing idea on his YouTube site that this is down to Leclerc being ‘schooled’ by Ferrari to imitate Sainz in some areas of his driving/corners, which pushes him out of his natural style. Difficult to prove, obviously, but some explanation is needed for a driver of Leclerc’s level just losing it in a race from the lead while under zero pressure.

          1. Good comment. I agree on Brasil

    3. I think Charles is up there with Max and Lewis and think it’s unfair to judge him on this. The pressure is high at Ferrari and everything seems to be going wrong for them at the minute.
      I’d love to see Lando in a frontrunning car soon to see if he is on par with those three as I suspect he is.

      1. Yeah, NOR should be in front, Ferrari better try get him until it’s not too late.

        1. I rather see Norris as a fine replacement for Hamilton at Mercedes (in terms of talent, but also fitting in in what’s already 99% British team anyway). On the other hand, that could only happen in two or three years, and things change ever so quickly in F1. By that time Norris may have a poor season or two and end up in DTM, and/or we may see a new talent smashing it in F2 and outperforming some slow car in F1 later, someone we don’t even know of at the moment. I’ll stay clear of any predictions. Gasly is a fine example. He was average at best in his first 30-40 races, then he showed some potential (but never impressed). Due to his young age and who knows why, he got a RB seat and utterly failed. We thought that was it. Then he impressed in Torro, Tauri whatever, and hopes got high again. Now, only few months later, he’s fighting for survival in F1 and his career doesn’t look promising at all (I don’t see him driving for a better team in the future, and he can’t keep driving for the B team forever). As for Ferrari, they seem like a foreign culture in F1, a place where only one in a hundred drivers fits in properly, being able to deal with all the crazy stuff and atmosphere. That one driver will become a legend, the rest 99 will be extremely happy to be as successful as Barrichello or Massa were, but most won’t be so lucky. As for Norris, I don’t think his personality fits at all, but I’m guessing like anyone else. I’d be fun to see for sure.

      2. The pressure is high surely in any championship race. Last season was far more intense. Maybe there’s a lack of ultimate confidence of Leclerc in himself? In Austria he got everything right, I feel, because he had a point to prove relative to Sainz and the team. He needs some of that selfish focus all the top champion-level drivers have (currently HAM, VER, ALO).

        1. @david-br
          The pressure in Ferrari is different to what any other driver would experience even in a Titanic title battle like the 2021 championship, It’s a whole different story. You have the Tifosi, the environment, the Italian press, the internal politics and the owners of the team (Ferrari and the Agnellis) and of course some of the usual anti-Ferrari foreign medias that are constantly waiting for the team to fail to take a shot at them. When you drive for any other team, you’re driving for them. When you drive for Ferrari, you’re driving for a nation.

          1. @tifoso1989 Fair enough, though does Leclerc feel that pressure? He never mentions it, I feel, compared to Vettel, say, who always seemed to reference the Italian expectations in some way or other. Alonso I’m sure handled it just fine. The recent gossip has been more around how well Sainz dovetails with the time and Charles being slightly marginalised. No idea how true that is.

          2. If he finds a way to just care less about the outskirts of his prime job then he will get on VER and HAM level. Hard to judge whether that is possible within the Ferrari environment. The other teams let Lewis and Max be the driver (driver as in leading, not the actual driving the car) to a greater extend imho

          3. @david-br
            I said it before here. I have always felt that there is a certain bias in the team towards Sainz. Just my feeling with no proof whatsoever. Both Leclerc and Sainz do have houses in Maranello and spend let’s say too much time in the factory compared to the previous drivers ; Vettel, Raikkonen. They are easy to work with and are both likeable guys.

            The thing is Carlos Sainz Sr is known to have a good relationship with the Agnellis but that’s about it. Leclerc has complained from the balance of the F1-75 in France and stressed on the fact that he like oversteery cars. As Villeneuve explained lately on the french Canal+, drivers who likes oversteer are the ones capable of extracting those special tenths from the car. The likes of Hamilton, Verstappen, Schumacher…

            Carlos is known to like neutral cars like Button and has previously struggled in the past in Renault against Hulkenberg due to the oversteery nature of the car. Carlos has finally come to speed and he was literally flying in Paul Ricard. There were two factors to consider : he had a fresh PU which is very important and he was on the correct tyres (medium) after the SC while everybody else were on hard.

            Leclerc is going to have a penalty probably in Spa or Monza for a PU change. I think the change will be forced due to the latest homologation date of September. So normally he will be out of contention in the race when he will have his penalty. In the next race with fresher PU and in the same race conditions as Sainz, if he will not have his usual pace advantage then what you’re suggesting might be true and Ferrari could have developed the car in a direction biased to Sainz.

    4. More absolutist and blinkered thinking here. Lots of people (not me, mind) were writing off Verstappen in the earlier part of his career for his overdriving, his too many mistakes, and bad attitude. Verstappen was clearly a very talented driver who needed to mature and sure enough he did and it’s ongoing. Leclerc is clearly a very talented driver who still needs to sort out some areas of mental fortitude to truly get to the level of consistent high performance that Verstappen has been on recently. It’s too early to tell if Leclerc will do this or not and it’s far too early to write him off against Verstappen in the long run.

  2. Great write-up.

    1. +1 About as thorough as I’ve seen any race write-up. Great work @willwood

  3. Unfortunately for Ferrari they don’t have champion-material drivers. Either that or Ferrari is a terrible team to be in as a driver. Could be either.

    1. Steveetienne
      25th July 2022, 10:24

      Nando would be challenging in that Ferrari & would have won yesterday in it.

      1. Yeah, we all know how many Championships Alonso won with Ferrari.

        1. BW (@deliberator)
          25th July 2022, 12:32

          Yes, but he came much closer than anyone has since, and Alonso had demonstrably worse cars. In particular, what he did in the 2012 wreck of a car is one of the greatest season-long performances ever.

          1. Why do people keep repeating this he benefitted from good reliability, when the Redbull alternator held together we saw how the was clawed back in the championship.

      2. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Charles. He is much more consistent than last season. It still needs some work but great driver. Lando seems to be up there as well. Lewis and Max still stand out at the moment but no reason for Charles, Lando and George to reacj a similar level given the right car

      3. People seem to forget that in 2010, Alonso made more mistakes in his first championship title challenge with Ferrari than Leclerc this season when he was pushing flat out to match the Red Bulls. Malaysia qualifying, China jump start, putting his car in the wall in practise in Monaco and in the race in Spa, He overtook Kubica off the track in Silverstone though the penalty was harsh. Alonso started to perform on another level compared to every driver on the grid from 2011 onwards. I’m a die hard Alonso fan by the way.

        The bashing Leclerc is getting now is unjustified and the comparison with Max is not fair. Max is considered the absolute class of the field and this year he made a mistake in Spain that went unpunished plus the fact that he was outqualified by Checo 3 times who is not a top qualifier. He also has the best team on the grid at his service.

        Leclerc did 2 costly mistakes in Imola and France and has outqualified Sainz in all but 1 qualy session. He was screwed up by his team denying him 2 comfortable wins due to stupid strategy errors not to mention that he retired twice from the lead. It’s understandable that Max is currently considered the best on the grid but that doesn’t make Leclerc a normal driver. He also did very well against Max in wheel to wheel battles too.

  4. Such a shame. This could have been a memorable season but Ferrari is bottling it.
    They just don’t seem to be able to put everything together and deliver, like in 2017 and 2018.
    And we are left with a championship almost decided before summer break…

    1. I think we really need to forget there’s a championship and focus on the racing happening on track, this is a car-driver combination that can win several races still and fight verstappen on merit, they just will not fight for the title.

    2. At least with 2017 and 2018 Lewis was behind Seb at the halfway point. This year Max is sleepwalking to a 63 point lead before the summer break

      1. @amam I agree. put Lewis in the Ferrari and he would be neck and neck with Max, leclerc is handing the championship to max turning the 2023 season into a bore fest with the title virtually decided before the summer break.

        At least during the dominant years of Lewis he still had competition , 2015-2016 Rosberg (nico won the WDC in 2016 ffs ) 2017-2018 seb late 2020-2021 max yet wunderkind has won the 2023 WDC before summer break which is far worse than any time in lewis dominance era yet you don’t hear many complaints from supermax orange army…

        If you forget about the disgusting farce last race of 2021 season it was one of the best ever seasons ever because of the close battle for the championship, controversy and midfielders challenging for wins(Ocon, Danny ric in monza, Norris almost won in Russia if not for folding under pressure) but this season the midfield are miles off the pace and the WDC leader is running away with the championship without a serious challenger.

        This is why max and spice boy are more relaxed this year because they know charles is a walkover unlike Lewis so all max needs to do is drive 9/10, not crash and wait for charles and/or Ferrari to self implode.

  5. That Ferrari pressure and toxicity that destroyed Vettel is now destroying Leclerc.

    1. BW (@deliberator)
      25th July 2022, 12:29

      Yes – it really is a shame. Vettel had his flaws to be sure, but Ferrari did little to help. He may not have been the most complete driver, but he was undoubtedly a real champion. It’s just that RBR knew how to bring out the best in him, and make decisions he could rely on. Ferrari was (and still is) a shambles. It’s just a shame that now LEC has to suffer when he deserves so much better.
      I was never a Ferrari fan, but they were an absolute beast in the days of MSC-Brawn-Byrne-Todt. They must really miss that team…

  6. Just to give an sense of how big is the 63pt advantage.
    With another win, VER will just need P2 finishes to wn the WDC.
    With two more wins, VER will enter the P3 and lower territory.
    And all this is assuming that Ferrari and particularly LEC won 7-8 of the 10 remaining races.
    The championship can only be open again with 3-4 VER DNFs – what we havent see and probably wont as RB can run conservatively the rest of the season.
    In fact, even if LEC-Ferrari found in themselves a team to race for the win in every of the 10 remaining races, VER properly only needs to beat of LEC 3 or 4 times – and by beat I mean not even winning but just finish ahead. So, VER can choose his battles very carefully. For LEC, every race is a final match – thus a bigger chance of mistake like yesterday’s.

    1. BW (@deliberator)
      25th July 2022, 12:24

      Its all true. And given that LEC has managed to win only 3 races so far in the fastest car (his and Ferrari’s fault), what chance is there of stringing together 7/8 in a row? Let alone 10.

    2. @Gusmaia just one small correct: one more Max win won’t mathematically allow him to just finish P2. A Max win would mean an advantage of 71, 70 or 69 points (depending on who wins fastest lap), while there are 8 points for Charles to gain on Max per race if Max finishes P2 (Charles scores P1 + FL, Max scores P2) so in the other 9 races there are a maximum of 72 points to gain by Charles.

      It’s close, but not mathematical fact yet :)

      Also, probably a bit theoretic because Max will also still have races where he has some bad luck, driver error, strategy, or something else preventing him to score P2’s. He already had 3 of those this year, so statistically there will be a few more.

      1. You are right. Strictly one more win wouldnt be enough.
        But that some wiggle room in the same way that to consider that a LEC win (with VER p2) would means a 8pt reduction on the lead – ie not only LEC would win 9 of 10 races but he would also get the FLAP point on all those races.
        Aritmethically, yes, it would take a little more. For practical effects, this additional win would give VER the championship on P2 finishes.
        It is also true that a flash of bad luck might visit RB-VER on the second part of the season, but the lead – and the lack of the need to beat LEC on every race – gives RB the option to run more conservatively. I mean, LEC’s need to beat VER on last Sunday and every other Sunday coming will make LEC certainly more error-prone or more exposed to all or nothing situations. VER will have more opportunities to say “oops, I wil not risk everything on this first turn. Even he Charles go ahead, I can normally beat Carlos and Mercedes are not that fast yet.”

      2. @mattds you miss the point and don’t need to be overly pedantic.

        Max and RB don’t need to push the car as hard chasing wins as they know that Charles and Ferrari are not constant enough to be a serious challenge.
        Unless Merc or Ferrari race ahead in development over the summer break similar to the teams in 2009 when Brawns cheater diffuser advantage was nullified RB will still be at an advantage because just like 2009 when button was being beaten by the Kobayoshi in the Toyota towards the end of the season he still won the wdc due to vettel not having enough races to make up the pre summer points deficit.
        Also if Merc catch up to be close on pace all that will do is deny Charles the maximum points results he realistically needs to catch up to max or worse: drop even more points..

        Another example where the maths favours Max is that due to his massive points advantage he does not need risk a dnf fighting hard for wins like last year for example instead of battling with Lewis he could settle for finishing 2nd or 3rd as long as he is ahead of Charles the championship is his. I cant see Charles winning 6+ races and max finishing off the podium looking at the races already completed. To add further this would be made worse as the RB can turn the engines down increasing reliability because unlike Ferrari they don’t need to go all out risking a mechanical failure chasing maximum points.

        The point is that Max does not need to fight as hard as last season or take unnecessary risks anymore due to the massive lead over his only championship rival and the inconsistency of Charles makes his WDC virtually guaranteed but stranger things has happened in F1 before…

        1. Another example where the maths favours Max is that due to his massive points advantage he does not need risk a dnf fighting hard for wins like last year for example instead of battling with Lewis he could settle for finishing 2nd or 3rd as long as he is ahead of Charles the championship is his.

          In another comment I point to that also: With the current lead and expected finishes, VER only need to beat LEC 3 or 4 times – and by “beat” understand just finish ahead whatever the position. This means that RB/VER can just choose where to push when the best chance of a win is clear. Otherwise, a conservative PU mapping wil do the trick and almost assure a 3rd place.

        2. @ccpbioweapon I’m not missing any point and I’m not being pedantic, let alone overly.

          I thought the answer wasn’t fully correct, or maybe rather not fully complete, so I added my thoughts in a respectful way. Gusmaia clearly didn’t take offense so no need for you to call me out for supposed foul behaviour.

    3. I think the statistic that Verstappen has won more races from Leclerc’s pole positions than Leclerc has himself says it all about their likelyhood to win the title.

  7. I feel five seconds was much too lenient a penalty for Ferrari’s unsafe release. It so nearly resulted in a collision with Latifi’s Williams, which would surely have taken out the McLaren mechanics who were just inches away from the near miss.

    Safety incidents in the pit lane, where pit crews are so vulnerable, have to be treated more seriously than this. Five seconds is the penalty for a misjudged cornering position during an overtake, perhaps losing someone an endplate, or causing a spin. Something so clearly endangering those in the pit lane should incur a drive-through. And that goes not just for Ferrari yesterday, but also Alpine – whose own unsafe release into the path of Latifi just a second later seemed to go unpunished entirely.

  8. BW (@deliberator)
    25th July 2022, 12:22

    This season has real overtones of the 2005 season. There, Alonso, in a very good Renault maximised his car every weekend (except Canada where he made a small but costly mistake) and dragged everything out of his car which was only 2nd fastest overall. Meanwhile, Raikkonen and Mclaren had undoubtedly the quickest package, but owing to team mistakes, driver mistakes, a slow-to-get-to grips 2nd driver (Montoya) and poor reliability, they managed to knock themselves out of contention for both championships.
    The similarity is really striking. Not to mention also the less than stellar 2nd driver (Fisi) in the championship winning team who was frequently AWOL at races.

    1. ? Alonsos car was a rocket ship in 2005-2006!

      Do you mean the 2005 Ferrari was the fastest? Ferrari who only won one race: the US gp and that was only because all Michelin drivers retired due to safety fears?

      If you mean McLarens they was was never as fast as the Renaults plus they had zero reliability as the teams recourses was spread too thin because Ron Dennis tried to implement many ingenious ideas to catch up to Ferrari but the untested concept parts came at the expense of race endurance and the meme Kimi retirements.

      The rock solid reliable 2005-2006 Renault Enstone car was fast mainly because it benefited from the tyre wars being Michelins premier partner who helped design the complex front suspension and semi illegal Tuned mass dampers plus the superior launch and traction control system which was trademark of Flavio Briatore at Enstone F1 made the car handle like it was on rails.

      I Think fisi was “awol” because Flavio always had a number one driver system and number 2 was surplus to requirements (remember when number 2 driver crashed on purpose to give Alonso the win in Singapore 2008..), Max’s dad Jos who was number 2 to Schumacher at Benetton complained that he drove an inferior slower car. one obvious example is that he did not have the cheat launch control system MS had…

      If you want to compare a season it should be 2012 Where there was a fast car hampered by poor management and inexcusable mistakes by the team.

      Lewis Hamilton at McLaren could’ve won the Championship but farcical engine failures from race winning positions, team manager Whitmarsh giving ‘best mate’ button the best mechanics and the car designed around his driving style and not Lewis’s, bizarre rulings (qualified 1st at Barcelona but excluded from quali at the last moment for a bogus fuel irregularity) being taken out of podium position by other drivers (Maldonado – Valencia, hulkenberg-brazil ) cost him at least 100 points.
      Ron Dennis was not in charge as he stepped down to focus on the launch of the new McLaren Automotive division and build a new production factory back in Woking . He was replaced by incompetent Martin Whitmarsh who didn’t have a clue how to manage the team similar to Ferrari right now with incompetent team leadership. Whitmarsh (and Button) are partly responsible for Lewis taking a huge risk leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the season and that worked out well for him to say the least!

      Its a shame that 2023 season has become a one horse snoozefest.

      1. Anyone joining Merc back then would have won in the car lets face it. Even Alboretto or Badoer and he was pretty well … not good. As soon as Ham had any quality competitive co driver he binned it. Sorry.

  9. Leclerc is the fastest man in the current grid but he should learn not to overdrive.

  10. Can we have racing tyres next year? If not sooner. Only managers want to watch management tyres.

    1. It makes no difference which tyres they use – they’ll still manage every last bit of performance out of them all the time.
      Your issue is with the teams, their approach, and the amount of data they have available – not with the tyres themselves.

  11. The whole recounting of the sainz radio is depressing. It’s the “we are checking” meme in real life. Sainz told them they needed to act fast to make another stop worth it. They dithered. He took matters into his own hands and ran down Pérez…and THEN they had him pit? Good grief.

    Mercedes have almost enough fool’s gold to snatch up 2nd in the WCC. Between Ferrari bungling and Pérez not showing up they can totally do this. They have the best and most consistent driver line up—-even with them both crashing in Austria and Russell looking for his inner Maldonado right now.

    1. Yeah, where was Perez? I cant believe hiw poor he drives again. Similar to last season

      1. Well… I believe. I can’t believe the hype surrounding PER after Monaco, same thing with SAI after Canada/UK.

      2. My guess is that the RB18 now oversteers while Perez likes a car that understeers.

      3. As @jamesbond notes – the car Perez needs has been taken away from him and modified in order to help Verstappen.

  12. I think there’s quite a lot of foolish comments written on here. Things like driver X would handle things differently and be on level terms with Max. Then Charles cannot handle the pressure from team and country and has fallen apart under it.

    None of knows really know do we. Charles seems very level headed and never seems like he’s particularly under pressure. I think the team, esp. Binotto have been quite good at managing expectations. The team has definitely had quite an impact on where Ferrari are today with the car unreliability and poor strategy calls. I think they have handled their drivers pretty well though.

    I think Charles is just the type of person who is more likely to make a mistake. I don’t know him of course but at certain points he just seems to lose concentration. Maybe yesterday he was not under enough pressure and his mind just wandered for that split second. Not everyone is perfect. Exceptional drivers are few and far between. I think in the current field probably only Lewis, Fernando and Max are truly exceptional. They have all been WDC.

    1. Don’t think it’s lack of concentration…. but not impossible tho. I think it’s more that he pushed too much given the state of his rear tyres at that moment. Could be something related to the setup too, his rear seem to move too much from the beginning of the race. Peter Windsor said in the FPs he looked at SAI’s telemetry, especially for that corner because SAI was a little faster there. He also noticed LEC was changing the direction(s) there more than VER for example. So, I think it’s more like something related to the combo: driving style (maybe a little too agressive) and/or car setup + tyres state.

  13. Even with fastest car FE keep falling back. Do switch cars (but keep teams and people as they’re) and Max wld be 100 points ahead, at last.

  14. ……unfortunately!

    Let’s be honest, the champs are over. Sad, but true. Ferrari and their drivers still need to work on all chapters: car – especially reliability, strategies, while LEC and SAI need to iron out the mistakes. At the moment they lack on all these chapters, therefore the current situation.

  15. Well at least this year Max winning the WDC won’t be controversial – he’ll have it sewn up miles before Abu Dhabi.

    Sad to see what should have been a great battle amount to nothing – Ferrari has yet another year of “almost but not quite” – mostly because they just can’t manage themselves. That in turn adds more pressure on their drivers to take things into their own hands and causes mistakes.

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