Max Verstappen believes that his advantage over Charles Leclerc in the Formula 1 title is larger than it should be based on Ferrari’s performance this season.
Verstappen claimed his seventh win of the 2022 season in Sunday’s French Grand Prix after teammate Leclerc crashed out of the race in the closing stages of the first pit stop.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started on pole and had a one-tenth lead over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by the end of lap 16 when the latter was forced to pit.
It was Ferrari’s mistake on lap 18 that brought out the safety car, which allowed Verstappen to take the lead from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen finished the race with a lead of 10 seconds over the rest of the field despite not pitting. Having gained 63 points with 10 races remaining, Verstappen now leads the championship by over two victories.
“Even on a poor day, like we had in Austria, scoring points is still incredibly crucial,” Verstappen remarked.
In light of the disparity in the driving styles of the two contenders, the lead we currently hold is more than it should be.
Despite thinking Leclerc would be faster in the opening stint and “extremely hard to follow,” Verstappen was able to maintain a competitive distance behind the Frenchman.
He stated, “I could see right away that our balance was not horrible, but he may also be just managing a little.” Of course, we want to see a lot of competition between our teams.
“A lot of things can change,” Verstappen said after witnessing his 46-point deficit to Leclerc after just three races suddenly reverse itself.
Due to a Virtual Safety Car issue, Sergio Perez missed out on a podium finish, but Red Bull nonetheless extended its lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ title to 82 points.
Despite the high stakes of the 2021 championship race, Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner praised his team’s efforts to adapt to the new restrictions and said they were “above my wildest dreams.”
By putting in the effort, Horner says it’s a “testament to the determination, dedication, and hard work that has gone on behind the scenes.”
This year we’ve seen that Ferrari is a very competitive car. Mercedes seemed to be gaining ground. However, given that we were one of the last teams to make the switch to this season, we think we’ve done really well.”
A one-stop strategy was always the goal after tyre degradation was found to be lower than expected, although Horner stated Verstappen would have gained track position on Leclerc thanks to his early pitstop.
“It was the earliest that we felt was on the limit for the one-stop, and the tyre deg was better than we expected coming into the race,” Horner said.
Our initial plan was to make two stops during the race. It became apparent that there was some track space where we could drop Max as the race moved closer to the one-stop.
He had track position around the midway point of the lap, so all that was left was for him to bring the tyres in properly. “
It was “very, very tight between the two teams with a very different strategy to getting the lap time here,” said Horner, who reckoned Verstappen could “defend relatively well” had Leclerc not fallen due to Red Bull’s straightline speed advantage in sector two.