Max Verstappen won the 2022 French Grand Prix for Red Bull after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out of the race on Lap 18– walking away unscathed– as the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completed the podium at Paul Ricard, here on Sunday.
Leclerc had looked set to control after leading early from pole and had withstood a Verstappen onslaught before his race – and his championship bid – took a huge turn on the 18th lap thanks to a costly unenforced error.
The 24-year-old driver lost control of his Ferrari car at Turn 11 and spun into the barriers, prompting gasps from a sell-out crowd and a huge outcry of emotion from Leclerc on team radio.
Verstappen stayed out and inherited the lead, Hamilton and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez pitting and giving chase for the restart.
Championship leader Verstappen led comfortably when the race resumed on Lap 22, opening a four-second gap over Hamilton by Lap 30 of 53 and eventually winning by a margin of over 10 seconds. Perez lost P3 to Hamilton at the start of the race and couldn’t keep pace with him.
He nonetheless seemed favourite to finish third but after a late Virtual Safety Car – triggered by Zhou Guanyu’s on-track stoppage in the Alfa Romeo – he lost the final podium place to Mercedes right as the VSC ended on Lap 50. Perez and Russell had previously made contact at Turn 8 – no penalties applied – in a fraught battle for the rostrum, which ended with the pair split by just 0.8s by 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 McLarens to finish fifth at the chequered flag.