Verstappen wins thrilling battle with Hamilton in France

Perez 3rd, Bottas 4th


By Olivier Ferret

20 June 2021 - 16:37
Verstappen wins thrilling battle (...)

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen extended his F1 championship lead over arch-rival Lewis Hamilton with a thrilling French Grand Prix victory that saw the Dutch give up the lead midway through the race and switch to a potentially risky two-stop strategy. But after erasing a 16-second gap to Hamilton the Dutchman closed in and powered past the Mercedes driver on the penultimate lap of the race to secure the lead and take his 13th career win.

When the lights went out at the start of the race, Verstappen made a good getaway to lead Hamilton as the field headed for the first corner. But in Turn 2 the Dutchman made a mistake and went wide. The error allowed Hamilton to steal the lead as Verstappen rejoined ahead of Bottas and Pérez.

Over the opening laps Hamilton tried to build a gap and by lap nine he was almost two clear ahead of Max, though he was already complaining that his front tyres were beginning to suffer. Bottas, meanwhile, was just a second behind the Dutchman. Pérez was finding it hard to stay with the top three, however, and by lap 10 he was 4.4s off the back of Botttas’ Mercedes.

Bottas was the first of the pacesetters to pit at the end of lap 17, taking on Hard tyres. The Red Bull Racing made its move on the next lap and Verstappen pitted for hards in a stop of 2.3s.

Hamilton was then told to push on his in-lap in a bit to negate Max’s attempted undercut. His pit stop was clean and he took on hard tyres in a 2.2 stop as Pérez, who had yet to pit, swept past to take the race lead.

Hamilton should have rejoined in P2, but Verstappen’s out lap was superlative and as the Briton emerged from the pit lane Verstappen drew alongside the Mercedes and got past into Turn 1. Pérez meanwhile, went long on his first stint and stayed on track until the end of lap 24. And after taking on Hard tyres he dropped to fourth place, 16 seconds behind Bottas.

The pace at the front now ramped up spectacularly as Hamilton tried to pressure race leader Verstappen. The Dutchman resisted well but both drivers and Bottas were soon on the radio saying that their tyres would not last the pace.

Red Bull Racing then opted to switch Verstappen to a two-stop race and on lap 32 the Dutchman pitted for a new set of medium tyres. He emerged in P4 behind Pérez but quickly began close on those ahead and he was soon past his team-mate and hunting down Bottas

By lap 44 he was within DRS range of the Finn and as they went into the chicane on the Mistral straight, Bottas went slightly wide. The mistake allowed Verstappen to pounce and he raced past the Finn at full speed as they swept through Signes.

A few laps later Pérez too closed up to the struggling Finn and armed with fresher tyres the Mexican got a better exit out of the chicane and aided by DRS he powered past the Mercedes driver to claim third place.

Then it was Verstappen’s turn. He closed hard and with two laps remaining he got to within DRS range of Hamilton. And on lap 52 he too chose the chicane to make his move. Verstappen got the perfect exit and with the aid of DRS he roared past the Mercedes driver to claim the race lead and a little over a lap later a stunning victory. Thanks to his pace on medium tyres in his final stint Verstappen was also able to collect the point on offer for fastest lap thanks to his time of 1:36.4040 set just after he took on the new set.

Behind the top three finishers, Bottas was left with fourth place ahead of hard-charging Lando Norris who collected 10 points for P5 after starting from P8. Norris’ McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was sixth ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly while Alpine’s Fernando Alonso finished in P8. The final points on offer were taken by Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll who finished ninth and tenth respectively.

Verstappen’s win and fastest lap mean he is now on 131 points, 12 ahead of Hamilton, while in the Constructors’ Championship Red Bull Racing now has 215 points, 37 ahead of Mercedes.

01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16B 53 laps - 1h27m25.770s 2
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12 +2.904 1
03 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RB16B +8.811 1
04 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12 +14.618 1
05 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL35M +64.032 1
06 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL35M +75.857 1
07 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT02 +76.596 1
08 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A521 +77.695 1
09 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 +79.666 1
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 +91.946 1
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF21 +99.337 1
12 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43B +1 lap 1
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda AT02 +1 lap 1
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A521 +1 lap 1
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 +1 lap 1
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF21 +1 lap 2
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 +1 lap 1
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43B +1 lap 1
19 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-21 +1 lap 1
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari VF-21 +1 lap 1

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