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  1. F1

Formula 1: Chequered Flag - French GP Review

Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix to extend his lead at the top of the drivers' standings to 63 points after his nearest rival in the championship race, Charles Leclerc, crashed out when leading.

Red Bull driver Verstappen, who had just been in for his first pit-stop, was the beneficiary of a big mistake from Ferrari's Leclerc, who spun out at the double-right Beausset corner when in front on lap 18.

Mercedes improvement continues

Mercedes continued their recent improvement as the upgrades they introduced to their W13 car at the Circuit Paul Ricard paid off with Lewis Hamilton finishing second, ahead of his team-mate George Russell, with the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez finishing fourth.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr was fifth, Fernando Alonso, for Alpine, was sixth, with Lando Norris' McLaren seventh. Esteban Ocon, in the other Alpine, finished eighth, McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was ninth and Lance Stroll picked up one point as he finished 10th in his Aston Martin.

Verstappen back to winning ways

It was a great afternoon for Verstappen as the reigning world champion won his first race since the Canadian Grand Prix on 19th June, ending a run of two victories for the Ferrari drivers in the process and securing his seventh win of the season in total.

It means that with just 10 races to go, the Dutchman has a commanding lead at the top of the standings, with Leclerc now just seven points ahead of third-placed Perez.

Verstappen is 1/5 to win the Drivers' Championship, Leclerc is 4/1 and Hamilton is 40/1.

The race appeared to be shaping up into a close fight between Leclerc, who started on pole, and Verstappen until the Frenchman's error. After holding off early pressure from Verstappen to increase his lead to over a second, things seemed to be going Leclerc's way.

Leclerc admits big mistake

However, soon after Red Bull brought his rival in for his first stop on lap 16, the Ferrari driver spun into the barriers. He attempted to reverse out but was unable to rejoin the contest and admitted afterwards it was "not good enough" from him.

An honest and self-critical Leclerc went on to say later: "I am performing at a very high level since the beginning of the season but if I keep making these mistakes it is pointless to be performing at this high level, I will try to get better but this is not good."

Following Leclerc's exit, Verstappen was able to comfortably hold off Hamilton and he finished 10.587 seconds ahead of the Briton, who is finally beginning to enjoy what has been a tough season so far.

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After slowly returning to form with three consecutive third-place finishes, the seven-time world champion recorded his best result of the campaign, coming home in second, nearly six seconds ahead of his Mercedes colleague Russell.

The porpoising that has affected Mercedes all season was not an issue at the smooth Paul Ricard track and, as expected, Hamilton and Russell were able to perform well. Russell is fifth in the drivers standings, just a point behind Sainz, with Hamilton sixth, 16 points adrift of his team-mate.

Hamilton pays tribute to team

Hamilton, who admitted he felt dehydrated afterwards as he couldn't get any liquid out of his water bottle during the race, paid tribute to his team, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to try to improve his Mercedes car throughout the year.

He said: "What a day, I am so proud of the team. Winning races and getting results like this it is about the whole package. Reliability is a huge part of the whole process so I am so proud of the team from the reliability we have.

"We were nine tenths off in qualifying. For some reason our race pace is a little better. I can't answer as to why but I am grateful for that."

The next Grand Prix is coming up this weekend with the Hungaroring the venue for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday 31st July.

Verstappen is 1/1 to make it back-to-back race victories, Leclerc is 6/4, Sainz is 17/2, Hamilton is 12/1 to win his first race of the year, Perez is available at 14/1 and Russell is 25/1.

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