LE CASTELLET, France (AP) — Defending Formula One champion Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix on Sunday after Charles Leclerc crashed out as Ferrari’s woes resurfaced, falling 63 points behind the Red Bull driver in the championship.
Lewis Hamilton finished second in his 300th GP — securing a fourth-straight podium — while George Russell overtook Sergio Perez’s Red Bull following a virtual safety car restart late in the race to give Mercedes its first podium double of the season.
Leclerc’s race ended on Lap 18 when he lost the rear of his car coming out of Turn 11, spinning 360 degrees before crashing into a tire wall. Leclerc could not speak at first, breathing heavily in his helmet before telling his team the mishap was caused by another throttle problem, and then letting out a furious “Noooooooooo!”
It was the third time he did not finish a race this season — Ferrari’s seventh in 12 races — and came two weeks after a throttle problem almost cost him victory at the Austrian GP.
Later, Leclerc said the crash was caused by his mistake.
“We’ll add things up at the end of the season, but if we’re 25 or 30 points short at the season I can only blame myself,” Leclerc said. “I couldn’t go into reverse, but those are small details. You just can’t put a car into the wall.”
Perez finished fourth ahead of Sainz, who took a bonus point for fastest lap.
Sainz had passed Russell and Perez when his team told him to pit for new tires with 10 laps left.
“Come on, guys, I can’t believe you told me to box then,” a frustrated Sainz said. “I don’t know why we boxed … I don’t understand.”
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