Ahead of the 2022 French Grand Prix, many felt Scuderia Ferrari could have a more challenging day today in comparison to Red Bull due to their set-up differences. Charles Leclerc lined up in P1 at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, while Carlos Sainz could not be in the mix from the off at all due to him starting from the back of the grid as a result of several penalties received for exceeding allocation of power unit components.
The two Ferrari drivers worked together during qualifying with Carlos Sainz giving his team-mate a tow. With the Spanish driver starting from the back row of the grid, Red Bull had two-on-one at the front, with Sergio Perez in third.
As expected, everyone at the front chose for the medium tyres in the first stint of the French Grand Prix, with only three drivers going for the hards, including Carlos Sainz, who therefore planned on staying longer on track in order to overcut as many drivers as possible and rely on faster tyres in the second part of the race.
Charles Leclerc led the 19 other drivers off the line and the Monegasque driver got away better, holding the lead into the first corner! It was also a great start for Lewis Hamilton, who managed to overtake Sergio Perez for third, with Fernando Alonso also flying in fifth. In the first few laps, Charles Leclerc was able to do exactly what he needed to: the pole-sitter opened a one-second gap over Verstappen, and was out of range once DRS kicked in. The best start of all came from Kevin Magnussen, who jumped seven places in the opening couple of laps from the back of the grid for Haas. Carlos Sainz, who started alongside Magnussen on the back row, was up to 15th.
Unfortunately, that gap Charles Leclerc opened up didn’t last very long: the Dutchman recovered and was under a second, back within DRS zone. Further behind them, George Russell got past Fernando Alonso to take P5, while Sergio Perez was trying everything to overtake Lewis Hamilton for third.
Max Verstappen was repeatedly taking looks at passing Charles Leclerc, but the Ferrari driver initially somehow held him off for a few laps, while Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to pit, going for an aggressive two-stopper. On lap 11 the Moneagsque continued to hold off Max Verstappen, as Carlos Sainz was making good progress and climbed up to P11 after 13 laps, despite a DRS train in front of him which made it more dificult to overtake. A few moments later, the Spaniard overtook Lance Stroll to move up to P10, as the next target for him was Daniel Ricciardo. Charles appeared to have seen off the initial challenge from Max Verstappen and was almost two seconds clear of the Red Bull after 15 laps, with Red Bull deciding to pit him: the Dutchman come out behind Lando Norris in seventh place.
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Sadly, Charles Leclerc went off at Turn 11 and into the barriers. His race was over, at a moment he was looking so comfortable too. After the barriers were repaired and the Safety Car disappeared, Max Verstappen was left to restart this race from the lead, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Sergio Perez.
Zhou Guanyu clipped the back of Mick Schumacher’s Haas and sent him spinning: the Ferrari junior carried on in 17th, while Zhou had to pit and was 18th.
Carlos Sainz was making fantastic progress, having overtaken Fernando Alonso for P5. However, the Spaniard received a major setback, after being given a five-second penalty for an unsafe release from the pits. He forced Alex Albon to take evasive action in the pit lane. The Spanish driver made his move round the outside of Russell at Signes and was up to P4, but of course had the five-second time penalty to serve.
Carlos Sainz was able to catch Sergio Perez and puts the hammer down, pulling off a brilliant pass on the Mexican on the home straight. George Russell tried to take advantage of Perez and Sainz’s scrap and went down to the inside at the end of the straight. But after all that hard work to get past Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz quite bizarrely came into the pits: he served his five-second penalty and came back out in ninth.
Carlos was able to set the fastest lap of the race and recovered to fifth place, overtaking Ocon, Ricciardo, Norris and Alsono on a day in which Ferrari’s hopes of challenging Red Bull for both championships has taken a huge blow. Amid plenty of drama further back, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton cruised to the top two places in the 2022 French Grand Prix.
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