Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

F1 Championship lead ‘too big’

Verstappen claimed his seventh win of the 2022 season at the French Grand Prix on Sunday after Leclerc crashed while driving towards the end of the first period.

Leclerc qualified on pole for Ferrari And he was just over a second ahead of Verstappen before bringing the Dutch Red Bull to the pit at the end of lap 16.

Ferrari kept Leclerc out before colliding on lap 18 after a foul, resulting in a safety car that resumed with Verstappen ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen managed his tires well to complete the race without pitting again, crossing the 10-second streak from the pack. The win saw Verstappen’s championship advantage swell from 38 points to 63, making him more than two race wins with 10 races to finish this season.

“It’s still very important to always score points, even on bad days, which is what we did in Austria,” Verstappen said.

“Of course the progress we have is great, but it’s probably a little bigger than it should have been, when you look at the performance of the car between the two.”

Verstappen admitted he thought Leclerc could have been faster during the opening period of the race and would be very difficult to follow, only to find he could stay on hand easier than anticipated.

“I knew right away our balance wasn’t bad, but he can also run a bit,” Verstappen said. “It looked like we were very competitive, but that’s of course what we’d like to see.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photography: Alistair Staley / motorsports pictures

Verstappen admitted his defense of Leclerc had been “fantastic progress”, but cautioned that “a lot of things can happen” after seeing his 46-point deficit against Leclerc after three fast races.

The result also saw Red Bull extend its constructors’ championship lead over Ferrari to 82 points, despite seeing Sergio Perez Miss out on the podium late due to a glitch in the virtual safety car.

Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner praised his team’s efforts to adapt to the new regulations very well despite the intensity of the 2021 title fight, acknowledging that the results and points advantages were “beyond my wildest expectations”.

“It’s truly a testament to the determination, dedication, and hard work that went in behind the scenes inside the factory,” Horner said.

“We’ve seen that Ferrari is also very competitive this year. We’ve seen that mercedes It’s definitely gaining momentum. But considering we were probably the last team to move fully into this year, it was an amazing feat.”

Horner said Verstappen would have gained a spot on the track at Leclerc thanks to his early pit stop, but was always aiming to stick to a one-stop strategy after discovering that tire degradation was less than expected.

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“That was the first thing we felt like he was on the one-stop limit, and the tire grade was better than we expected going into the race, to be honest with you,” Horner said.

“We ran the race we were leaning towards two [stops]. As the race started, we started moving towards the one stop, and we saw a little bit of track space where we could drop Max.

“We pulled the trigger, halfway around the lap, he had the track position, and from that point on, it was just about getting the tires in well.”

Had Leclerc not crashed, Horner felt Verstappen would have been “able to defend reasonably comfortably” thanks to Red Bull’s straight-speed advantage in the second sector, but thought it was “very, very tight between the two teams with a completely different approach to the goal. It’s lap time here.” “.

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