Verstappen wins French GP as Leclerc crashes out

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Red Bull's Max Verstappen took victory in Sunday's Formula 1 French Grand Prix after title rival Charles Leclerc of Ferrari once again retired from the lead of a race in the 2022 season.

Starting from pole position, Leclerc held off a strong challenge from Verstappen in the early stages of the race but dramatically spun out at the Turn 11 right-hander on Lap 18 while under no pressure.

With the front of his car buried in the tyre barrier, Leclerc was unable to continue, and the Monegasque let out a scream of anguish over the radio at his costly error.

"[It was] a mistake," said Leclerc afterwards. "I think I'm performing at the highest level in my career, but if I keep doing those mistakes, then it's pointless to perform at a very high level. I'm losing too many points.

"It's just me trying to push too much, and then I lost the rear. It's been a very difficult weekend for me; I struggled with the balance of the car."

Leclerc had also retired from the lead in Barcelona and Baku with mechanical issues and made a mistake dropping him from third to sixth at Imola, and the Monegasque rued the effect the lost points would have on his title hopes.

"I think it was seven points [lost] in Imola and 25 here because, honestly, we were probably the strongest car on track today," added Leclerc.

"If we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season, I will know where those points have come from, and it's unacceptable. I just need to get on top of those things."

After Leclerc's retirement, Verstappen was never threatened and cruised to his seventh win of the 2022 season and a commanding 63-point lead in the Drivers' Championship.

"I think we had really good pace from the start," said Verstappen.

"I was putting pressure on Charles, but following around here with this heat, the tyre was overheating a lot so I couldn't ever really go for a move, only once into Turn 11.

"But we just tried to stay calm, tried to stay close, because we pitted a bit earlier.

"From there onwards, you never know how the race is going to go, but the car was quick today.

"Of course, unlucky for Charles. [I] hope he's okay. From there onwards, I just did my race, looked after the tyres.

"[With] the pit lane being so long, you couldn't do another stop, so you had to stay out, but the tyres were wearing a lot, so it was all about just looking after the tyres."

Behind Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton scored his and Mercedes' best finish of the season with second place, ahead of teammate George Russell, who opportunistically dived inside Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez after the end of a Virtual Safety Car period, dropping the Mexican to fourth.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz salvaged fifth after starting from the back row following a penalty for excessive component usage, with Fernando Alonso sixth at Alpine's home race.

Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren ahead of Alonso's teammate Esteban Ocon, while the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo was ninth, with Aston Martin's Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

In the Driver's Championship, Verstappen extends his lead to a commanding 233 points over Leclerc, who remains on 170, with Perez third on 163 points.

In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull still lead the way on 396 points, with Ferrari second on 314 and Mercedes closing the gap in third on 270.

The 13th round of the 2022 F1 season is next week's Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring, near Budapest. 

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