Max Verstappen of Red Bull won the 2022 French Grand Prix after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out on Lap 18 and walked away unscathed, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completed the podium at Paul Ricard on Sunday.
Leclerc appeared to be in command after taking the lead early from pole and withstanding a Verstappen onslaught before his race – and championship bid – took a dramatic turn on the 18th lap due to a costly unforced error.
The 24-year-old driver lost control of his Ferrari at Turn 11 and spun into the barriers, eliciting gasps from the sold-out crowd and a massive emotional outburst from Leclerc over team radio.
Verstappen stayed out and took the lead, with Hamilton and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez pitting and chasing him down for the restart.
When the race resumed on Lap 22, Verstappen led comfortably, building a four-second lead over Hamilton by Lap 30 of 53 and eventually winning by more than ten seconds. Perez lost P3 to Hamilton early in the race and was unable to keep up with him.
Despite appearing to be the favourite to finish third, a late Virtual Safety Car – triggered by Zhou Guanyu’s on-track stoppage in the Alfa Romeo – saw him lose the final podium spot to Mercedes just as the VSC ended on Lap 50. Perez and Russell had previously collided at Turn 8 – no penalties were imposed – in a tense battle for the rostrum that ended with the pair separated by just 0.8s at the flag.
Driver of the Day Carlos Sainz started 19th with engine penalties, but with his Ferrari on hard tyres he made it into the top 10 by Lap 14. He pitted for mediums during the Safety Car, but an unsafe release led to him serving a stop-go penalty and pitting again for mediums on Lap 43. He passed the Alpines and McLaren duo to finish fifth at the chequered flag.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso passed Lando Norris early on and stayed in sixth, ahead of both McLarens for much of the race, holding them up for team mate Esteban Ocon to take P7 off Daniel Ricciardo after the Safety Car restart. McLaren started the afternoon level on points with Alpine but, with Norris finishing seventh and Ricciardo ninth, Alpine move ahead in the standings heading to Hungary.
(Inputs from IANS)