French Grand Prix 2022 Review

Tyres Northampton News

French Grand Prix 2022 Review

Published:
July 25, 2022
Last Updated:
July 25, 2022

Max Verstappen returned to the top step in Formula One with a win at the French Grand Prix after his championship rival Charles Leclerc crashed out from the lead. Verstappen may feel a little fortunate to leave France with a 67-point advantage in the World Drivers' Championship standings after Ferrari looked the fastest team at the Paul Ricard circuit. However, a snap of oversteer at Turn 11 had Leclerc go over the limit of his Pirelli tyre's adhesion, losing him a likely race win and valuable points in the championship.

It was a miserable day in France for both sides of the Ferrari garage. In their second car, Carlos Sainz started from the back row after an engine change. Sainz fought through the field, but an unsafe release in a pit stop and a baffling late-race Ferrari call for a third set of tyres meant he had to settle for P5 after looking set for a podium. Instead, Ferrari's misfortunes allowed Mercedes to take their best result in 2022 with a double-podium finish. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell shared their first rostrum trip for the German constructor.

The race's start went as well as possible for Leclerc, staying in P1 from his pole position and keeping Verstappen behind. Hamilton had also jumped past Sergio Perez, with the Mercedes looking quicker in race trim than its Qualifying setup. At the back, Sainz had taken a couple of positions from P19. However, he had started the race on the white-walled Pirelli Hard tyre to try and go longer before needing to pit, while most runners had equipped the Mediums.

French Grand Prix 2022 Review

As DRS came into play on Lap 3, Leclerc hadn't opened enough of a gap to keep Verstappen at arm's length and had to watch his mirrors. Every time Leclerc led the field down the long Mistral Straight, his Red Bull rival probed for weakness. Perez was doing similar on Hamilton, too, with the Mercedes driver falling further behind Verstappen and defending from the Mexican without any DRS assistance.

Leclerc's staunch defence had kept Verstappen at bay for long enough that Red Bull chose to try an overtake in the pit lane and called their lead driver in for new rubber. Choosing Pirelli's Hard tyre meant the Dutchman wouldn't need to pit again, but if Leclerc could eke out performance on his Pirellis, the Ferrari might be quicker at the end of the race. However, it would prove to be a moot point.

Now racing without needing to defend, Leclerc went a little wide at Turn 11 and oversteered into a spin off the track. Even with the abrasive paint that the Paul Ricard circuit is famous for slowing his Ferrari F1-75 a little, it wasn't enough to stop the Monegasque driver from hitting the tyre barrier. Leclerc was out of the race, and the resulting Safety Car allowed most remaining drivers to take a 'cheap' pit stop while the marshalls recovered the broken Ferrari.

French Grand Prix 2022 Review

A busy pit lane saw double-stack pit stops and cars everywhere as the teams rushed to swap tyres and take advantage of the slowdown. In the chaos, Ferrari let their remaining driver out into the path of Alexander Albon, forcing the Williams to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing. Sainz, who had jumped up to P8 from his back row, would receive a five-second penalty for his team's mistake, making his already tricky day even more challenging.

Although Sainz had the penalty hanging over him, the speed on his Medium tyres made him the fastest man on track. He passed most of the midfield, who were now using the Hard Pirelli compound, with a flurry of overtakes and soon caught up to the front four. Verstappen and Hamilton had sprinted ahead, but Perez and Russell looked vulnerable to the fast Ferrari.

Russell was the first for Sainz to tackle. A pass on the outside of the flowing Signes right-hander netted the Spaniard P4, and he soon closed onto the back of Perez – and a possible podium place. However, because Perez and Russell were on the hard tyres while Sainz's Mediums could start degrading, Ferrari began preparing to pit their Spaniard. Nevertheless, Sainz had attacked hard in the final sector, forcing Perez to go off the racing line. Sainz carried phenomenal speed around the outside of the penultimate corner to give him the inside line on the final turn, and he was through to third.

French Grand Prix 2022 Review

There was no rest for Perez, either, who now had Russell trying to pass. The two almost came to blows at the Nord chicane; Russell's divebomb forced Perez to use the escape road to avoid contact, and he kept ahead for now. The battle between the two would soon again become the fight for third, too, as a puzzling strategy call from Ferrari had them call Sainz into the pits to swap his tyres, despite overtaking into P3 and edging forwards. He emerged P9 and would have to pass the midfield again to eventually finish a relatively disappointing P5.

Sainz's loss would prove to be a silverware gain for either Perez or Russell, as the two spent the remainder of the race nose-to-tail and wheel-to-wheel fighting for P3. The critical hit for Russell would come thanks to a Virtual Safety Car after Guanyu Zhou's Alfa Romeo pulled to the side of the track. When the race returned to green flag conditions, Russell caught out Perez's slow reactions to put his foot down and steal a third-place finish with three laps remaining.

After Leclerc's retirement, you'd be forgiven for forgetting Verstappen was still in the race with his lonely run in first place. He crossed the line 10-seconds ahead of Hamilton, who took Mercedes' first P2 finish of 2022. Russell made it a double podium for the Silver Arrows after his cunning racing. F1 will return this weekend, where Ferrari will hope to fire back, but it again looks like Verstappen's championship to lose.

French Grand Prix 2022 Review

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