Max Verstappen takes advantage of a slip-up to take the next victory. The Red Bull star again leads the overall standings comfortably. Charles Leclerc has a very bitter day in France, while the German drivers remain without World Championship points.

World champion Max Verstappen is racing inexorably towards defending his Formula 1 title after Charles Leclerc’s next Ferrari debacle. In the heat of France, the Dutchman drove his Red Bull to a seventh win of the season on Sunday after Leclerc, the runner-up in the world championship, flew off the track early in the race and cursed violently in the car after the mishap.

Meanwhile, in the 300th race of his Formula 1 career, Lewis Hamilton achieved his best result of the year in second place in the Mercedes, 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 a 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 push and lost the rear. That’s unacceptable,” said Leclerc, who had previously complained about a problem with the accelerator.

No points for the German drivers

After the twelfth of 22 rounds of the season, Verstappen pulled ahead of Leclerc in the overall standings to 63 points and is well on his way to claiming his second title in a row. Former world champion Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, finished eleventh in the Aston Martin. Mick Schumacher failed in his attempt to score points for the third time in a row and only finished 15th.

In extreme asphalt temperatures of well over 50 degrees, Leclerc made a perfect start and defended his pole position ahead of last year’s winner Verstappen. Only Hamilton came close to the top duo at the start of his 300th Grand Prix. The Silver Arrow star was only the sixth driver ever to break this barrier, but the seven-time world champion still has a long way to go before he equals Kimi Räikkönen’s record. For a long time, the 37-year-old was unable to keep up with Leclerc and Verstappen, both of whom pulled away inexorably at the front, while Hamilton had to defend himself against the pursuers.

Beyond the points, Mick Schumacher tried to work his way up from 17th position. The 23-year-old had to start from the back of the grid after his best time in qualifying was cancelled due to a rule violation on Saturday. After Schumacher had scored two championship points in the last race, the field was slow to move forward. A collision with Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo, including a spin, threw him to the very back of the field on lap 23. Vettel, too, had to be patient after starting from twelfth position and could not sustainably free himself from his midfield position.

Verstappen put Leclerc under enormous pressure, 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 finish at the front again after a month without a win and did not let up.

Overtaking is difficult at the Circuit Paul Ricard, however, and in the past the races on the Côte d’Azur were usually pretty boring for that reason.

Turn 11 leads to Leclerc’s retirement – Sainz with a strong race

Things got exciting when Verstappen came back from changing tyres and Leclerc lost control of his car on lap 18. The Ferrari flew off the track at turn eleven and Leclerc was unable to hold the car. The third retirement of the season had the Ferrari star already swearing loudly on the radio before he was driven back to the pits on a scooter. After the race was reopened, Verstappen defended first place in commanding fashion ahead of Hamilton, who had won in France in 2018 and 2019.

Making his way through the field was Lecler’s stable rival Sainz. The Spaniard had had parts changed on the engine in recent days and was fined for it, which put him at the back of the grid. With twelve laps to go, he was third, but a five-second penalty because the team let him go dangerously early after a tyre change put additional pressure on the 27-year-old.

At the front, Verstappen impressively reeled off his programme and was not held back by temperatures of over 30 degrees or by the chasers.