It happens sometimes in sport, but at the end of the French Grand Prix you’d struggle to find anyone who was genuinely happy.
Max Verstappen was delighted to have won the race and inflicted serious damage on the title race, but even the Dutchman was left a little flat with Charles Leclerc’s first crash in what looked like a spectacular race.
No one at Ferrari was happy for obvious reasons, as Leclerc’s championship campaign ended badly and Sainz’s race was once again marred by bad strategy.
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Sergio Perez had a tough weekend that ended with a late relegation from the podium, with the Mexican never quick after a strong start to the year.
Only the Mercedes drivers seemed to be really happy despite not winning the race, which is surprising considering the team has dominated Formula 1 for eight years.
It was just one of those races, and there will be many in the paddock looking for a good result at the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.
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Championship for Leclerc
The French Geological Society recorded an unusual tremor at around 3:33pm on Sunday, this time in Le Castel.
Charles Leclerc’s anguished scream, visceral and guttural and full of emotion, hard enough to feel in the ribs, powerful enough to roll down the windows.
Monegasque knew at that moment that his championship campaign was over.
Worse, it was the end itself.
His disastrous crash left him 38 points adrift of Verstappen in the championship standings, 63 points behind with 10 races remaining. He could win every race with the Dutchman by a second and would not take the lead until the eve of the final race.
And there was an unusual breakdown, the car suddenly went out of control in the middle of the 11th. It was on the part of the track where the Ferrari car was strongest, but it was on a relatively deep set. Medium tires that had to defend against Max Verstappen.
Leclerc said he doesn’t fully understand how he lost his car, but he admits he knows enough to say it was all his fault rather than car trouble or a crash coming directly behind him.
“[It was] It’s wrong,” he told Sky Sports. “Like I said, I think I’m performing at the highest level of my career, but if I keep making these mistakes, there’s no point in performing at such a high level.”
And the behavior of Leclerc’s self-flagellation didn’t end there, he fully aired his concerns that he still cost them a title shot with 10 rounds to go.
“I’m losing a lot of points – I think seven here at Imola at 25,” he said, referring to a late spin at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix that dropped him from third to sixth. “Honestly, we were probably the strongest car on the track today.
If we lose the championship by 32 points at the end of the season, I know where they are coming from; It is not acceptable. I have to get up on those things. “
Mathematically he’s right, and to think he and his team are equally responsible is a different spin on the current point deficit.
Of course, considering that this is the third time this season he has retired from the race lead, the last two were the result of technical problems, and he has lost many more points due to safety-related penalties and bad strategy calls.
But with the campaign quickly reaching a self-reflective stage, Leclerc has not upped the ante with several runs left and still has room to improve in terms of delivery this season if he is to mount another challenge next season – or, if you prefer, this season.
Was Ferrari right to pit?
While Charles Leclerc’s garage was disappointing, Carlos Sainz’s man must have been thoroughly confused in fifth place.
Fifth came from 19th on the grid, a strong recovery, but Sainz’s pace was so good throughout the race – in fact he was the best Ferrari player all weekend – that the Spaniard was right to think there was more to come. The table.
Unfortunately for Ferrari, it was another deeply controversial and borderline ridiculous strategy call that could have cost them a better finish.
It started with a pit stop during Leclerc’s safety car, then was released unsafely into the lane of Nicolas Laffey, for which he was given a five-second penalty.
Later in the race, as he was battling for third place with Sergio Perez, there was a long debate with the pit wall and a second stop over the possibility of passing Mexico on new tires was rejected, but there were not enough laps left in the race to do so.
Sainz blocked his way past Perez – only for the team to tell him to pit, apparently in the middle. He declined the call, but he was asked a second time, and this time he regretted it, even though he started to create a gap on Perez.
He dropped to ninth and recovered upset to fifth, running out of time to get back on the podium – just as the team itself had predicted.
Ferrari didn’t think Sainz’s medium tires would make it to the finish and argued that fifth would have done better with a five-second penalty.
Sainz said he had nothing to lose gunning for the podium and you have to say it was a serious tire problem between Perez, 25 seconds on the tail of the front-runners and Fernando Alonso leading the midfield. To lose enough time to drop below the fifth.
Only one driver completed a longer final time in the intermediate stage, and although it was the slowest Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman showed no drop in performance, so the pace he managed was late in the grand prix, confirming Sainz’s claims.
It was the latest in a series of races where Sainz has spoken out about his strategy from the cockpit, other notable examples being his correct tire call at Monaco and his race-winning decision on a safety car restart at Silverstone.
It’s not a good look for Ferrari, whose paralyzing conservatism has permeated its strategic decision-making and, coupled with Leclerc’s failure, suggests the Scuderia simply isn’t ready to challenge for the championship.
Mercedes’ best result of the year – but the gap is still significant
It’s been almost seven months since Mercedes got two cars on the podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in the final days of the 2021 championship.
You would never have guessed that it would take such a tough night for Mercedes 13 races to get both cars back on the podium. When you did, you would never have guessed that Lewis Hamilton’s second best result of the season would come.
Such is the fate of Mercedes in 2022.
What may be more unusual is how delighted Lewis Hamilton was to finish second – with Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez out of contention.
“I feel great,” he told Sky Sports. “What a day, what a weekend.
“I’m very proud of the team. This is an incredible result.
“To get a second and a third is something special for us.”
It’s true that Mercedes looked more competitive than their predecessors during the race, but there are some tips for their results this weekend.
The original W13 still had serious tire heating issues that cost Hamilton almost a second in the opening stages of the race, which saw him immediately out of the running.
Furthermore, the relatively modest 10-second gap from Verstappen to Hamilton at the flag is somewhat artificial, as the field was deep in tire protection conditions for much of the second race. It averaged 0.3 seconds laps per second, but there’s good reason to think it would be bigger under normal running conditions.
That’s still a significant step up from Saturday’s qualifying deficit of one second, and an improvement on earlier in the season, but it’s a long way from the pace the team had hoped to achieve in France.
“For some reason our run rate is a bit better. I can’t answer why, but I’m grateful for it,” Hamilton said. “We don’t know why we came into this weekend and had a big gap at one lap. We certainly didn’t expect that; We expected to be more competitive.
Mercedes looked almost certain to repeat the result, but the up-and-down French Grand Prix was proof that the forecast is still unpredictable and it’s hard to bet on a win without the team this season. That’s what he said.
For the second race in a row, Perez was upset
Perez was defending third place late in the race as he chased down George Russell. The pair had already made contact in the chicane – the Briton had gone deep into the interior of Mexico, sending Perez off the track. The stewards did not investigate and no penalty was issued – a virtual safety car on the last lap opened the door to some tricks from the Mercedes driver.
All drivers are warned when the VSC time is about to expire, and the race resumes after a random interval of between 10 and 15 seconds. Russell tried to get out early on the restart and nailed it, allowing him to blow by Perez and take third.
But he had little help when the VSC system failed to fire on its first try. The backup system that finally started the race was activated, but it took about a minute from the maximum 15 seconds.
Unfortunately for Perez, the run continued when he was in the middle of a corner and his defense got in the way.
“I got the message that it was going to end after the 9th lap, so I went for it, and then it didn’t end,” he told Autosport newspaper. “Then I got the message saying it was over in the 12th lap and I was so close.
“To be honest, it’s a shame that the virtual safety car interfered with the result. It should not have been the case; But today was the case.
This came after the Austrian Grand Prix was badly damaged by a late track limit decision by the stewards that dropped him from fourth to 13th.