France proved to be a major boost for Max Verstappen and his title hopes, but he is not declaring himself the 2022 champion in waiting yet.
Polesitter Charles Leclerc was looking strong having kept the lead at the start and successfully fending off Verstappen in the opening stint.
But once Leclerc crashed out, Verstappen was in the clear to race on to the chequered flag and score his seventh win of the season, extending his Championship lead to 63 points over Leclerc.
However, despite now holding such a mighty buffer, Verstappen warns that he is not home and dry yet.
“We are halfway only, there’s still a lot of races to go,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. “A lot of things can happen so I don’t really look at that lead.”
To that point, he believes that there will be races coming up which turn out far from ideal for Red Bull.
He named the Hungaroring, host of the Hungarian Grand Prix which is next up, as an example of where things could potentially get tricky.
Asked if that points buffer will make him smile during the summer break, which comes after the Hungarian GP, Verstappen replied: “No, because we still have a lot of work to do. We are still behind over one lap.
“And I don’t expect Hungary to be particularly our best track because I do think we are lacking a bit of downforce compared to Ferrari. And that’s what you need to run there. And so, we’ll face a few tough weekends as well.”
Verstappen followed Leclerc closely for much of the opening stint, a further encouraging sign with the 2022 cars that are designed to make this easier, considering the roasting temperatures at Paul Ricard.
But, if Leclerc had not have spun off into the tyre barrier, would Verstappen have been able to pass him on track?
“I mean, that’s always difficult to say,” he responded. “But I think what was good today is was we were attacking and we could stay very close on a track where it’s really difficult to follow.
“Because already driving on your own the tyres are overheating, and to be in the DRS for that long, I think was very promising.
“Of course, he pulled away a bit towards the end, but I think that’s just normal when you’re trying to stay close and the tyres are wearing.
“But it would have been, I think a really good battle to the end. Unfortunately we never got to that, but luckily of course Charles is okay. But yeah, from there it was managing to the end.”
Verstappen is the reigning World Champion, while this is Leclerc’s first experience of a title battle in Formula 1, so Verstappen was asked whether this is giving him an advantage?
He is not sure whether that is the case, claiming that mistakes like Leclerc’s are “easily made”, while also returning to the prediction of some tough weekends still being ahead for Red Bull.
“I mean, these mistakes are easily made. So yeah, I don’t know,” said Verstappen.
“I feel sorry for him. Of course, it’s not nice and he knows that. But I’m sure, we have still a lot of races to go and there will be a few tough weekends for us as well.”
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