Formula 1: Max Verstappen wins French Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc crashes out

Max Verstappen now has a 63-point lead over Charles Leclerc after winning the French Grand Prix.

Verstappen took the checkered flag 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton after Leclerc crashed out of the race from the lead before his first pit stop. Leclerc had held off Verstappen over the race’s opening laps and Verstappen pitted first.

Ferrari kept Leclerc on the track but he then spun while leading two laps after Verstappen had pitted. Leclerc’s crash brought out a safety car and allowed Verstappen to take the lead after the cars that were running ahead of him hit pit lane.

Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz finished fifth behind George Russell and Sergio Perez after starting 20th because he had to take a new engine. That fresh engine helped Sainz drive through the field and he even passed Perez for third on track in the last 15 laps of the race. But Sainz was on worn medium tires and Ferrari called him in for a second pit stop. He also had to serve a five-second penalty on the pit stop for an unsafe release from his first pit stop under the caution.

The win gives Verstappen his seventh of the season over the first 12 races. After winning 10 of 22 races in 2021, Verstappen could easily eclipse that number this season.

The title is Verstappen's to lose

Verstappen has 233 points through the first 12 races of the season while Leclerc is still at 170 points. Perez is now seven points behind Leclerc in the standings after scoring 12 for his fourth-place run. Russell grabbed third from Perez with just over three laps to go right after the conclusion of a virtual safety car for Zhou Guanyu’s stalled car.

It’s not unfair to wonder if Leclerc’s crash is going to be the incident that boosted Verstappen to the title. Leclerc had a very good chance of being within 25 points of Verstappen heading into the F1 summer break but now can’t be any closer than 38 points after the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 31.

Verstappen’s margin in the points standings is because of Ferrari’s inability to consistently do on Sundays what it does on Saturdays. Leclerc has three wins over the first 12 races of the season but also has seven poles. He’s only won two of those races from the pole and has failed to score points in three races after starting first.

Leclerc’s crash also helps bring Mercedes into the constructor standings battle. Mercedes is now 44 points behind Ferrari for second in the constructor standings after Hamilton and Russell finished second and third. The reigning eight-time constructor’s champs are the clear third-fastest team on the grid but have been the most reliable team in F1. Its consistent point-scoring finishes from Russell and Hamilton are a huge reason why it's within striking distance of Ferrari.

Race results

1. Max Verstappen

2. Lewis Hamilton

3. George Russell

4. Sergio Perez

5. Carlos Sainz

6. Fernando Alonso

7. Lando Norris

8. Esteban Ocon

9. Daniel Ricciardo

10. Lance Stroll

11. Sebastian Vettel

12. Pierre Gasly

13. Alex Albon

14. Valtteri Bottas

15. Mich Schumacher

16. Zhou Guanyu

17. Nicholas Latifi

18. Kevin Magnussen

19. Charles Leclerc

20. Yuki Tsunoda

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JULY 24: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W13 during the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 24, 2022 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen won the Formula 1 French Grand Prix. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)