Max Verstappen put the pressure on Charles Leclerc in the opening stages of the French GP, with the Dutchman even trying an unusual move on the outside of turn 11, but couldn’t get past the Ferrari. Shortly after his first pit stop – an attempt to undercut Leclerc – Verstappen saw his main rival crash out of the race in turn 11, paving the way for the most recent of his 26 wins in Formula 1.
Speaking after the race, the Dutchman emphasized how the heat made it very difficult for his tyres to hold on whilst in pursuit of the Ferrari, but that his Red Bull was “quick” and enabled him to stay close to Leclerc:
“I think we had really good pace from the start, I was putting pressure on Charles [Leclerc]. But following around here, with this heat, the tyres were overheating a lot, so I couldn’t really go for a move – only once, into turn 11.
“We just tried to stay calm, tried to stay close. Of course, we pitted a bit earlier, and from there onwards you never know how the race is gonna go. The car was quick today.”
Asked whether he would have still won if Leclerc didn’t crash out, Verstappen outlined how it is “difficult to say” but his ability to stay close to Leclerc on a track traditionally difficult for that was “very promising” in terms of pace:
“That’s always difficult to say, but I think what was good today is that we were attacking and we could stay very close, on a track which is really difficult to follow. Already when you’re driving on your own the tyres are overheating, and to be in the DRS [range of Leclerc] for that long was very promising.
“Of course, he pulled away a bit towards the end [of the first stint], but that’s just normal when you’re trying to stay close and the tyres are wearing.
“It would have been a really good battle until the end, unfortunately we never got to that, but luckily of course Charles is okay.
“Of course, unlucky for Charles, I hope he’s okay, from there onwards I just did my race, looked after the tyres.
“Because of the pit lane of course being so long, you couldn’t do another stop, so you had to stay out with the tyres wearing a lot, so it was all about just looking after the tyres until the end.“
According to the championship leader, his race after the incident for Leclerc was “all about” taking care of his Pirelli tyres, as he cruised to victory in Paul Ricard, extending his championship lead up to 63 points over Leclerc. He acknowledged that whilst his lead in the championship loos comfortable right now, there are “plenty” of races still to be run, and Red Bull has “work to do” to improve its qualifying pace:
“I always just try to get the most points possible. Of course, some moves, you see they are on, but sometimes you just have to back out and wait maybe for the end of the race. And that’s what we did, we have plenty more races to go where you have to score points.
“We still have a bit of work to do - over a single lap, especially – so [we will] just keep working.”
Verstappen said that he feels “sorry” for Leclerc after yet another massive points loss for the Monegasque, but reckons that Red Bull will also face a “few tough weekends” on the 10 rounds still to be run in the 2022 season, and that its struggles could begin as early as next week, at the Hungarian GP:
“Mistakes are easily made. I feel sorry for him of course, it’s not nice, he knows that. But I’m sure we have still a lot of races to go, there will be a few tough weekends for us as well.
“We are halfway only, so I think there are still a lot of races to go and a lot of things can happen, so I don’t really look at that lead.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We are still behind on one lap, and I don’t expect Hungary to be particularly our best track, because I do think we are lacking a bit of downforce to Ferrari, and that’s all you need around there. Like I said, we’ll face a few tough weekends as well,” Verstappen concluded.
Good stuff!!! 💪— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) July 24, 2022
I’m definitely very happy to win this one and to pick up more good points 👊
The car was very good today and we managed the race really well. Together this makes it a great day for us @redbullracing let’s keep this going 👊#KeepPushing #FrenchGP pic.twitter.com/emMNM6d8xo