There are moments in every Formula 1 world championship season that are looked back on and identified as the potential clincher in the title fight, and at Paul Ricard on Sunday we may well have got 2022’s.
Whilst there are still ten races to go in the campaign, Max Verstappen now sits 63 points clear of Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ standings, with the Ferrari man stuffing his car into the wall when leading the French Grand Prix after starting from pole.
After the crash, he said he cannot make such ‘unacceptable’ mistakes but, ultimately, that is what he has done and so, that said, we have to kick off with Charles in our winners and losers piece…
Loser – Charles Leclerc
Poor Charles, you could hear the sheer anguish in his voice over the team radio after he’d binned his Ferrari from the lead.
He was driving brilliantly all weekend but that now counts for very little, and you could see the disappointment in his face once he’d arrived in the media pen for his post-crash interviews.
He said he won’t give up believing in the championship, but he knows it’s quite the task he faces now.
Winner – Max Verstappen
What a weekend for Max.
It looked very much as though the Ferrari had the measure of the Red Bull this weekend just gone in France, and yet we’re at the end of the event and he now has an advantage so big he could retire from two races, see Leclerc win both, and still have a nice cushion in the standings.
It’s not over in the title race, of course, any many twists may lie ahead but right now it’s hard to see who stops Max from taking title number 2.
Loser – Alfa Romeo
Alfa are losing ground in the battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ with both Alpine and McLaren bringing upgrades regularly and them not having a major package arrive since Barcelona.
They are working on bringing something soon that will hopefully get them back towards the top of the midfield but with both McLaren and Alpine cars in the points and both Alfas outside the top ten, the French GP weekend was another of late to forget for the team.
Winner – Mercedes
Mercedes didn’t really have an answer for the race pace of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, when on track, but they did, on merit, beat the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell appeared on the podium.
France was expected to be a very strong track for Merc, but it didn’t quite go to plan with them off of the ultimate pace in qualifying.
However, they stuck to their task well and both drivers delivered on Sunday, as they picked up more thoroughly deserved points.