A series of costly mistakes left Ferrari rueing once more at the Circuit Paul Ricard. However, the race could not have gone any better for Max Verstappen who now has an even more commanding lead heading into Budapest.

Ferrari's euphoria over Charles Leclerc's win at the Austrian Grand Prix that broke Max Verstappen's six-race winning streak was short lived. The team from Italy were left licking their wounds, staring aghast at the leaderboard after the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

Verstappen though could not have positioned himself better as Red Bull can claim at least one strategy played to perfection. It fell into place right where the Scuderia Ferrari failed. Once again Ferrari had a good run in the free practice and qualifying session, piping Verstappen to the post.

But if their team work was spot on during qualifying where Carlos Sainz gave Charles the perfect tow to finish on pole. Sainz was starting from the back of the grid because of penalties over engine component changes The race went anything but Ferrari's way, even when it seemed to.

Charles did well to keep second placed Verstappen behind him at the start. But the defending champion did not allow the Monegasque driver to completely pull away. This would perhaps explain why Leclerc might have been trying too hard to build a lead that would not affect the pit stop when it did arrive.

Formula 1 fans were hoping for more wheel-to-wheel action from the young guns which has been riveting and not enough to say the least. But, Verstappen was forced into a more conservative mode within the first ten laps over tire degradation on his mediums. It led him to an earlier than anticipated pit stop. That might have set him back against Charles who was less than forty points behind him on the world drivers championship points table.

Under the sweltering summer heat, Ferrari seemed to have had an early handle on the race. Charles was in the lead by a comfortable distance. Sainz was quickly making up places from the back of the grid to find himself in ninth position. But things went horribly wrong for the tifosi after that.

Leclerc spun out in Turn 11 on lap 18, slamming into the barriers unable to find the throttle to attempt his way back to the track. His blood curdling scream was heard over the pit radio. He spoke to the pain and anguish of throwing away yet another Ferrari moment this season. This was not the end of the agony for the team in red.

There was much discussion if Leclerc had been left out a couple of laps too long, not imitating the Red Bull plan when they pitted Verstappen, for his tires to catch him out. Leclerc blamed himself for "trying too much", and plausibly finding the dirty part of the track that let his rear get away from him.

From that point on, it was Verstappen's race to lose. Although only 24 years of age, the champion has been a revelation in terms of his growth and career graph. Seen particularly over the past couple of seasons, and he was not going to throw it away in his 120th race for Red Bull.

Meanwhile, the safety car opportunity presented the perfect window for most cars to pit. This was when it seemed that the race would best suit those who could manage a one-pit-stop strategy. Although it would take some doing under the heat and the wear and tear on the tires.

Ferrari too took advantage by pitting Charles' teammate. But there was a problem with the right wheel and then Sainz joined the track almost too late. It seemed that he might have crashed into another car, if the car behind did not slam the brakes hard in the pit lane to avoid the collision. The five second penalty became Ferrari's and Sainz' bane for unsafe pit lane release to add to the sloppy pit stop.

For Sainz, it seemed an impending bitter blow after doing all the work of working his way from the back of the grid. But the Spaniard was not throwing in the towel. He continued to plough his way through. He made his way as far as to get past George Russell in fourth place. He then chased down a slow moving Sergio Perez for the final podium spot.

Ferrari's Goof Ups

The pit garage might have been right to pit Sainz for a change of tires for what they believed was a case of end of "tire life". It would have put Sainz back anyway. But the fact that they waited until the 41st lap in a 53 lap race with a penalty to boot to ask Sainz to make the call spoke badly enough.

What made it worse was that they were caught napping on the pit wall. They asked their only remaining driver to "box" and pit while Sainz was in the midst of pulling off a spectacular overtaking move on Perez in the other Red Bull.

It couldn't get worse for Ferrari, even though they have managed to top themselves in terms of the implosions this season thus far.

"Not now," Sainz was heard yelling over the radio as he went past Perez only to have to do it again. He returned from the pit stop but was unable to go better than P5 in the end. He failed to get past Russell and Perez for which he neither had the legs nor the time by then.

Ferrari Were Not the Only Ones Napping

Verstappen's team mate, Perez, had been having a much different race. His briefly uplifting fortunes seem to have deserted him in recent races. Although he had already had contact from Russell previously, even the virtual safety car failed to gee up the Mexican driver.

Russell seemed to be deliberately holding himself up for the world to see that he was trying to catapult himself ahead of Perez even as the virtual safety car was ending. Even then Perez was made to look out of his depth. Russell did as intended and got past Perez in the blink of an eye. He stole the third spot on the podium to make it a Mercedes show.

If Verstappen was barely talked about, it was because once Leclerc cleared the deck for him, it was a matter of clinical precision and keeping all four wheels on the racing track. It is something the defending champion would have enjoyed after a year in which his fortunes too have fluctuated, wildly at times Also, in some ways, it depended on how the Ferrari coped with the pressure.

Leclerc has had the pace but perhaps not the maturity and experience, not to mention the right pit strategists. This has seen Verstappen transcend this perception of him being aggressive and immature to being a cool customer, waiting for his prey, hiding but very much in the hunt. The French Grand Prix was the perfect example of it.

Another man who was biding his time also, found his first real success this season. This is saying something for the seven time champion. Starting his 300th race in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton was a relieved but much exhausted man by the end of the race. He finished second, his best position this season in race 12. This says something about how Mercedes have had to catch up in the year when regulation changes have put the competition up front with development now almost on par across teams.

His teammate, Russell had a few close calls with Sergio Perez. Perez eventually had to let Russell through on an outwitted manoeuvre on the part of the younger Brit driver. Hamilton was largely left to his own devices. This would also have been something to feel good over given that he has had to work the field this season.

Although the eighth world championship still seems a fair distance away for Hamilton, Ferrari have certainly kept the rest of the field interesting and hopeful.

"I don't understand," Carlos Sainz repeated over the pit radio, knowing that all the hard work he had done to get to P3 had been undone by that late pit stop to finish fifth. It is contentious whether Ferrari had the wherewithal to think they could have pitted the Spaniard before the 35th lap, to leave him to do the work and have the time in which to do it again.

Whether they had faith that the plan could be executed on the mediums, as opposed to the hard tires that Sainz had started out on, is also something Ferrari can only introspect on.

What Ferrari's mix-ups and the drivers' mistakes have done is essentially give Red Bull the green channel when it comes to finding moments to pull away, time and again this season. It would explain why the team from Austria are nearly 100 points in the lead in the constructors championship.

Max has a little more of a comfortable lead over the promising but unpredictable Leclerc with 63 points before the race in Hungary. This will see the teams break away for about a month in which to regroup and return.

Ferrari would like to compete in Budapest with some redemption to boot. Verstappen will hope for more races like these with none of the 'too-close-for-comfort' races. It will keep Red Bull dominating at the front, despite Ferrari having the speed when it comes to pace, but little else when it comes to closing out their competition.