By James Broughton, July 26, 2022
He had it in the bag, Charles Leclerc had the French Grand Prix in the bag, but he binned it on lap 18 after pushing too hard on worn tyres prior to making his pitstop. Leclerc was trying to fend off a possible undercut by Red Bull and Max Verstappen. In the end, the Ferrari driver spun off at turn 11 and plummeted into the tyre barriers. His race over, Leclerc screamed aloud in total anguish knowing that he handed the race on a silver platter to his championship rival.
Leclerc is going to have to get on his knees and pray for a miracle to overturn a 63-point deficit to Verstappen. Red Bull has seemingly overcome early-season reliability issues, so the chances of Verstappen suffering another DNF are marginal at best. Verstappen is in imperious form, the intense battle with Hamilton last year has enabled to Red Bull driver to step up to another level in 2022.
Therefore, a sudden dip in form is highly unlikely from Verstappen, he is driving with a lot of due diligence this year compared to last year. Regardless of Ferrari’s reliability woes, strategy calls and driver errors, Verstappen looks impressive this season. He hasn’t been challenged with the same intensity as in 2021, nevertheless, he finds himself in an unassailable if fortunate lead.
Not the marshals trying to console him omg pic.twitter.com/tsLczGUzhu
— Jess McFadyen (@JessMcF1) July 25, 2022
Verstappen and Red Bull have been helped along the way by Ferrari which has the best car on the grid. However, the Scuderia has not made the best use of their superiority. The 2022 French Grand Prix is one example. Leclerc saw off the early threat posed by Verstappen and gradually brought the race under control. It all went wrong on lap 18 when the Ferrari driver made an unforced error.
It was a totally unexpected moment because Leclerc looked so much in control of his car and the race. Lewis Hamilton, who once considered racing for the Scuderia, gave his thoughts about Leclerc’s plight. Speaking to the media after the race, Hamilton said:
“I am gutted for Charles, he has been doing a great job.”
“But it is not easy to have that performance and pace and be able to maintain it. I feel for the whole team because I know what that can feel like.”
“It is a massive gap to Max so that is pretty smooth sailing for him in that space.”
“But a lot can go wrong. I would just advise Ferrari to keep their heads down and continue to push.”