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Verstappen has one hand on title as Leclerc not yet worthy - What we learned at the French GP

Verstappen has one hand on title as Leclerc not yet worthy - What we learned at the French GP

F1 News

Verstappen has one hand on title as Leclerc not yet worthy - What we learned at the French GP

Verstappen has one hand on title as Leclerc not yet worthy - What we learned at the French GP

The French Grand Prix was by no means an F1 classic but the drama at the Paul Ricard Circuit sent a shockwave through the championship.

Ferrari and Charles Leclerc had been in fine form at recent events and were starting to claw back the gap made by Max Verstappen and Red Bull, only for the former to crash out from the lead.

Verstappen eventually won to extend his championship advantage, with Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completing the podium.

So what did we learn from the Le Castellet weekend?

Leclerc not worthy of championship - but certainly will be

It is hard not to feel for Leclerc after the latest in a long list of race victories that have slipped from his grasp this season.

The first two were not his fault when Ferrari's reliability let him down but this crash most certainly was.

It is a worrying sign that Leclerc's habit of sending a car into the barriers has returned at the worst possible time. You don't need an impeccable memory to remember the Monégasque spinning at Imola when in a podium position.

Your mind wanders back to Azerbaijan in 2019 where a crash took away a near-certain pole position.

The damning verdict after France is that Leclerc is not worthy of a championship whilst these mistakes remain - he himself has conceded that.

But it is often the case that once a racer is knocked down in one season, they come fighting back to win the next. There is no doubt Leclerc is champion material once the mistakes are erased from his armoury.

Whilst on the topic of Ferrari, again strategy baffled as the team bickered amongst itself over whether to pit Carlos Sainz in the latter stages of the race.

The fact the call came when the Spaniard was side-by-side with Sergio Perez was laughable and no matter how much he defends his team, this must be sorted out.

Verstappen on his way to title number two

It sounds early to be suggesting this after 12 races in a 22-race season, but it feels anything other than a Verstappen championship would be a major shock.

Of course, between now and the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, anything can happen.

But the gap between Verstappen and Leclerc stands at 63 points, meaning Red Bull's driver essentially needs to avoid catastrophe in the final 10 races.

In fact, we are a race or two away from the Dutchman being able to settle for second to his rival in each race.

Mercedes positives from a concerning weekend

Mercedes may have taken a step backwards if you look at the lap times in qualifying compared to Red Bull and Ferrari, but there are positives to be gleaned.

The obvious being the points haul gathered by a double podium - the first since Saudi Arabia last season - despite the upgrades added on Friday not working as first hoped.

Hamilton and Russell are at the top of their games with their performances behind the wheel but most importantly for the Silver Arrows, so is the team back in the garage.

Mercedes is operationally sound when it comes to the races, strategy largely effective and seemingly able to pull results out of the bag despite the pace differential.

That bodes well for if and when the team is challenging for victories.

Alpine apply pressure to McLaren

Alpine continued its strong form with a double-points finish at its home race.

Fernando Alonso was sixth ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, and Esteban Ocon ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in eighth.

The result means the Enstone and Viry-based outfit has marginally pulled ahead of McLaren for fourth in the constructors' as it continues to traverse its 100-race plan.

Where will the team end up at the end of 100 races? Who knows? But there are positive signs that Alonso and Ocon can carry the team towards the front.

France to be missed, but not Paul Ricard

Paul Ricard is undoubtedly a fantastic test track.

The problem is that since F1 returned in 2018, the racing hasn't been spectacular. We held hopes out for an improvement with the new regulations but it was not to be.

We did have good racing between Sainz, Perez and Russell, but that was down to tyre deltas and one battle triggering another as the Mercedes driver pounced opportunistically into DRS range.

The issue with the location is that the climate, paired with the profile of the majority of the corners at the circuit, does not allow for the flat-out racing the new era of F1 has become accustomed to.

If this was the last French Grand Prix for the time being, the event would be sorely missed - the crowd was exceptional all weekend.

France is the home of grand prix racing - it is a French phrase - and must have an F1 race. But it needs a more permanent and more appealing home than at Le Castellet.

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