Verstappen wins fascinating French Grand Prix after hunting down Hamilton

20-06-2021 15:30 | Updated: 20-06-2021 15:51
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Verstappen wins fascinating French Grand Prix after hunting down Hamilton

Max Verstappen has won a phenomenal 2021 French Grand Prix and therefore opens the lead in World Championship to his rival Lewis Hamilton who finished in second. The Mercedes driver gave another tyre saving masterclass on a one-stop strategy, but couldn't keep Verstappen behind after the Dutchman hunted him down following a Red Bull two-stop. Sergio Perez overtook Bottas with four laps remaining to secure the final podium place. 

At the start of the race, Hamilton took the lead from pole-sitter Verstappen who made a mistake in the opening set of corners. The Red Bull driver regained the lead after a successful undercut attempt, but Red Bull opted to change into a two-stop which ultimately was strong enough to chase down Hamilton in the final laps of the race. Verstappen took the lead on the penultimate lap of the race. He now leads the World Championship to 12 points. 

It's the second time Verstappen has managed to win three Grands Prix in one season having previously recorded the feat in 2019. Verstappen secured the 48th podium of his career, and his second at Le Castellet. Red Bull Racing have won three consecutive races for the first time in the hybrid era. 

McLaren perfected the strategy and made huge gains up the grid whilst Ferrari struggled out on track. The Woking-based team regain third place in the Championship standings with a P5 and P6 finish lead by Lando Norris

Verstappen makes a crucial mistake

Hamilton and Verstappen both got off the line, but the Dutchman locked up at turn two and ran over the kerbs. This allowed Hamilton to take the lead on the opening lap. A gap he opened to 1.2 seconds after the first lap. The Brit reported a lack of grip but continued to open the gap.

Bottas managed to stay with the two runners at the front, but Perez dropped backwards by around a second per lap. By lap ten, Mercedes had some graining concern on Hamilton's front left medium tyre. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo looked like he was finding his feet in the McLaren with a stereotypical late-braking move on Fernando Alonso. Lando Norris also flew past the Alpine driver in what was a big gain for McLaren. Ricciardo triggered a successful undercut with the first pit stop of the day.

Undercut watch

Out of the first runners Bottas pitted first and emerged in fourth. With the undercut working for Ricciardo, Verstappen pitted immediately to cover off this move from Mercedes and an attempt to gain the lead. Verstappen was ahead by 1.3 seconds over Bottas. But with Bottas getting the lead strategy, Hamilton lost out to Verstappen in the pit stops. 

Perez pitted on lap 24 giving Verstappen the lead. Over the following laps, Verstappen led a train with both Mercedes drivers in DRS range. Bottas dropped backwards but Hamilton continued to apply the pressure. On lap 30, Verstappen raised concerns about whether the hard tyres would last until the end. 

This pressure was released slightly on lap 32 when Hamilton dropped back to a three-second deficit. But Red Bull pulled the trigger and gave up on track position. Verstappen came out in fourth with 21 laps remaining on the medium tyres. Before long, Verstappen set purple lap times. 

On lap 43, Verstappen found himself in DRS range of Bottas. Verstappen overtook Bottas within one lap. The Red Bull driver had a five-second gap to close on the seven-time world champion. The gap was cut down to 1.6 seconds with three laps to go. Verstappen past Hamilton on the penultimate lap. 

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