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Hamilton: Plain sailing for Verstappen in Formula 1 title race

Lewis Hamilton has backed Max Verstappen to ease towards another Formula 1 world championship after the Red Bull driver extended his advantage with victory in France.

The defending champion came in ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate George Russell, capitalising on Charles Leclerc’s error that saw him crash out while holding the lead in the race.

That marked the third time in 2022 that Leclerc’s Ferrari has retired from the lead and leaves the Monegasque driver 63 points adrift with just one race remaining before F1’s mid-season break.

Leclerc took responsibility for his latest setback and Hamilton offered his condolences to the 24-year-old by admitting he was “gutted” by his departure at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Though he’s urging Ferrari to keep up the fight, he admitted that he does not see any alternative outcome to Verstappen successfully defending his crown.

“It’s been great to see the pace of Ferrari this year. I’m gutted for Charles, who’s been doing a great job, as has Carlos [Sainz],” he told reporters.

“It’s not easy though, having that pace and that performance and maintaining it.

“It’s a tough job and I feel for the whole team because I know what that can feel like. But they’re a great team, and they’ll continue to keep their heads down.

“[There’s] massive gaps, obviously pretty huge so that’s pretty smooth sailing in that space [for Verstappen] generally.

“But a lot can still go wrong up ahead so I would just advise them to just continue to push.”