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French GP: The Best Carlos Sainz Is Not Enough In Another Strange Chapter Of Ferrari

Verstappen's victory at Paul Ricard, where Leclerc lost his options on lap 18, while Hamilton and Russell took the podium, with Alonso sixth.

Max Verstappen wins with the same ease with which Ferrari suffers. It happens every weekend, as in a succession of mirrors, to the delight of the reigning champion and the despair of Charles Leclerc . With 10 races to go, Vertappen has a 63-point advantage after his victory at Paul Ricard, where Carlos Sainz was unable to complete his comeback due to the questionable strategy of his team. Fifth at the finish line, ahead of Fernando Alonso , the man from Madrid was chosen driver of the day after completing 19 overtakings and setting the fastest lap (1:35.781).

The performance of Sainz, who recovered 14 positions, or the growing wave of Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the podium, should be valued in due measure. Verstappen's intelligence should be highlighted again, optimizing the performance of his car every Sunday. But for one reason or another, this World Cup orbits based on the debates around Ferrari. What happened with Leclerc going off the track on lap 18? Was it a simple driving error or a faulty accelerator pedal?

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Mattia Binotto, boss of the Scuderia, will have to tidy up his wardrobe as soon as possible to recover the positive inertia with which they left Austria. And offer convincing explanations to Sainz, who saw his podium options vanish with a change of wheels with 13 laps to go. At that moment, after a colossal overtaking against Sergio Pérez, Carlos was running third and seemed capable of dealing with the degradation until the checkered flag.


There was not even an option with Guanyu Zhou going off the track, because the stewards decreed the virtual safety car, preventing regrouping. A lethal period for Pérez, the victim of an oversight at the worst possible moment against Russell. There was a lot of pace in the Mercedes. Alonso knows it well.

The Spaniard had recovered two positions at the start, from seventh to fifth, and he rode in that quiet area all afternoon. Without the threat of the McLaren, the two-time champion finally had a smooth race, again ahead of Esteban Ocon . Initially, the stewards gave the Frenchman a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Yuki Tsunoda at the chicane on the Mistral straight.

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There was no respite in Paul Ricard, on asphalt at almost 60ºC, with a great atmosphere in the stands. Since the activation of the DRS, in the third round, hostilities broke out. Verstappen ignored his radio messages, which demanded some restraint from Leclerc. With only half a second between them, each step around the Signes curve anticipated the spark. If the Ferrari pulled better in the slow zones, the Mad Max car amazed with its top speed.

In another high-voltage melee, Pérez fought against Hamilton, although breaking the track limits in turn 3. Perhaps the Mercedes dealt better with tire degradation. Perhaps Leclerc kept his bullets, waiting for the moment of truth. The truth is that on lap 17, when he was losing 1.5 seconds, Red Bull made a move on Verstappen. He was looking for the undercut and to his pressure he added the speed of his mechanics (2.4 seconds). Nobody at Ferrari seemed upset by this circumstance and by radio they ordered Leclerc to continue keeping the tires. It was a strange premonition of the disaster to come.

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Two laps later, on arrival at turn 11, everything went to hell for Leclerc. Anyone would have interpreted the accident as a mere pilot error. But the furious howl of the Monegasque pointed in another direction. And when he was able to catch his breath, he explained it in a bit more detail: "I couldn't let go of the accelerator pedal." The same mechanical setback he had to deal with two weeks ago during the final leg of the Austrian GP.

As he passed through the mixed zone, the version of events changed again. "I don't deserve to be champion if I make these mistakes," Leclerc admitted. Which of the two versions, therefore, fit the truth?


Desperation also took its toll during the safety car period , when the mechanics missed Sainz's pit-stop. The mistake, the unsafe release against Alexander Albon 's Williams and the five-second penalty followed one another in a devilish chain. Prisoner of the climate of nerves, Riccardo Adami erroneously transmitted the decision of the stewards to Sainz himself.

Wounded in pride, Carlos ignored the blisters on his right front wheel, imposing the same pace as Verstappen. Since Friday, despite the scheduled change in the power unit, Carlos has felt very fast on this track. On lap 30 he left another fabulous maneuver against Russell on the outside of turn 10. Too bad everything was cut short and the late attacks against Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and Alonso were not enough to reach the podium.

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