Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates as he leaves his car after winning the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on July 24, 2022. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP)

After the next Ferrari debacle by Charles Leclerc, world champion Max Verstappen is racing towards the Formula 1 title defense. In the heat of France, the Dutchman steered his Red Bull to his seventh win of the season on Sunday after Leclerc, who was second in the World Championship, flew off the track early on and cursed violently in the car after this mistake.

In the 300th race of his Formula 1 career, Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes achieved his best result of the year in second place, while his team-mate George Russell secured third place in Le Castellet.

“I made a mistake at the wrong moment. I’m performing at the highest level of my career, but when these mistakes happen, it’s bad,” said the frustrated Leclerc: “We probably had the strongest car here.”

However, the 24-year-old did not want to blame his third retirement of the current season on a technical defect: “I tried to put pressure on and lost the rear end. That’s unacceptable,” said Leclerc, who had previously complained about a problem with the accelerator pedal.

After the twelfth of 22 rounds of the season, Verstappen has again surpassed Leclerc to 63 points in the overall standings and is well on the way to clinching its second title in a row. On the other hand, there was nothing countable for ex-world champion Sebastian Vettel, who finished eleventh in the Aston Martin. Mick Schumacher failed in an attempt to pick up points for the third consecutive time and finished only 15th.

With extreme asphalt temperatures of well over 50 degrees, Leclerc got off to a perfect start and defended his pole position from last year’s winner Verstappen. Only Hamilton came close to the top duo at the beginning of his 300th Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows star was only the sixth driver ever to break this barrier, but the seven-time world champion still has a long way to go to set Kimi Raikkonen’s record.

At the front, Verstappen put enormous pressure on Leclerc, and the first attempt to overtake failed on the seventh lap. After successes by Carlos Sainz (in Great Britain) and Ferrari team-mate Leclerc (in Austria), Verstappen finally wanted to be at the top again after a month without a win and didn’t give up. However, overtaking is difficult on the Circuit Paul Ricard, so in the past the races on the Côte d’Azur were usually quite boring.

It got exciting when Verstappen came back from changing tires and Leclerc lost control of his car on lap 18. In turn eleven, the Ferrari flew off the track, Leclerc could no longer hold the car. After the race was released again, Verstappen confidently defended first place from Hamilton, who had won in France in 2018 and 2019.

Lecler’s stable rival Sainz made his way through the field. The Spaniard had had parts on the engine replaced in the past few days and was handed a penalty that put him at the bottom of the grid. He was third with twelve laps to go, a five-second penalty because the team let him start dangerously early after a tire change put an additional strain on the 27-year-old.