F1 – French GP – Race
Bonjour, MiniFans! After seeing a good Ferrari strategy for once, even if it was the drivers that came up with it, and Charles Leclerc will, once again, start from pole position. However, both Red Bulls are surrounding him, so the Monegasque has a lot of work to do at the start…
Medium tyres plagued the grid, with a couple straggles trying a different strategy with hards. Leclerc did what he needed to do, leading from the start, and Verstappen was close by, but Pérez dropped the ball, losing third to Hamilton and soon seeing how Alonso’s rocket-like start placed him right behind the Red Bull.
Further back, Magnussen managed to recover a good chuck of positions, but Sainz could only do three in the first two laps, and one of them due to a collision between Ocon and Tsunoda, which demoted the Japanese driver to the back of the grid and awarded the Frenchman a five-second penalty.
Once the DRS was allowed, Verstappen started to show his superior top speed, but Leclerc didn’t back down and took advantage of the corners that don’t require as much speed, where Ferrari was still on top. Keeping first place, Leclerc managed to slowly pull away from his title rival, while his teammate had propped himself into the points with hard tyres.
The first important stop was from Verstappen, as Red Bull saw they weren’t getting any closer to Leclerc. Ferrari’s answer was to keep their car out, ignoring their rivals, but their strategy was short lived, as Leclerc crashed into the barriers and prompted a safety car, having to abandon once again while leading a race.
After Leclerc’s frustrated scream through the radio, and a complaint about his throttle pedal for the second race in a row, many drivers took advantage of the slowed down race and pitted to get fresh tyres, Sainz was the only Ferrari left on the track with a 5-second penalty due to an unsafe release and the race was resumed with Verstappen as the leader.
The race was mostly settled, but Sainz wasn’t settled and kept on climbing the few positions he had left until he reached the podium places, adding more overtakes to his already big list, but he was soon called into the pits (Ferrari had tried to make him box earlier, but he was fully into his battle with Pérez) for one last set of fresh medium tyres and his 5-second penalty.
A brief virtual safety car halted the race very near the end, and it ended up with Russell catching Pérez off guard and overtaking the Mexican just after it came to an end, following an unusually long “ending” period, and securing a double podium for Mercedes, as his teammate, Hamilton, was in second. Further back, Sainz cemented the proof of his pace and speed in Paul Ricard by lowering his own fastest lap of the race, and both Aston Martin raced to the finish line for the last point of the race, which went to Stroll, who managed to fend off Vettel.
Once again, Leclerc’s biggest enemy wasn’t other drivers on track, or even his teammate, but his own team, or maybe even himself. In what seemed like a problem with the throttle pedal mixed with pushing to open up enough of a gap to Verstappen to pit and come out in front, he crashed out of the lead, repeating his ending in Spain and Baku, something he cannot afford if he plans to battle Verstappen to the end of the year for the world champion title.