Max Verstappen extended his world championship lead after a strategic masterclass at the French Grand Prix, with team-mate Sergio Pérez in third for fantastic double podium for Red Bull Racing.
Max Verstappen took his and Red Bull’s first ever win in France with a dramatic penultimate lap overtake on title rival Lewis Hamilton. The race was a carbon copy of the Spanish Grand Prix, but this time with Red Bull performing the two-stop with Verstappen, leaving him plenty of time to hunt down both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team cars.
Verstappen went from third to first in the closing laps, first overtaking Valtteri Bottas and then Hamilton, who were both on destroyed hard tyres after pitting once earlier than expected.
Verstappen won the race having only led ten laps, the Dutchman lost the lead in the first corner of the very first lap after running off the circuit, only to get the lead back during the first round of pit-stops after undercutting Hamilton. It wasn’t long after Verstappen’s first stop that he was in again for a fresher set of medium tyres.
It became known very quickly that the predicted one-stop strategy wouldn’t work, the tyres were degrading much faster than Pirelli expected. Verstappen was left with plenty of laps to catch the Mercedes and take his first Formula 1 victory on French soil.
The win was a real team effort making it three wins in a row for Red Bull and two wins from the last three races for Verstappen, the Dutchman is in the form of his life.
“Winning this race was an amazing Team effort and to have a double podium at a track like this really shows the hard work everyone is putting in here and in Milton Keynes at our factory and Honda’s. Of course I would have liked to pull off into the distance and cruise ahead on my own but it doesn’t often work like that in Formula One and we really had to work for it today.
“You can see how close the two teams are and to win like this on strategy with two laps to go is very rewarding. It was certainly not an easy race and I got caught out at Turn 1 and lost the rear which meant I had to go off the track and lost a position to Lewis. I was of course upset at the time but I knew there was a long race ahead and I had to focus.
“In the first stint I didn’t really have the pace to fight with Lewis so we took the risk to pit first and to be honest I didn’t expect the undercut to work so well that I would come out ahead. They were pushing hard to try and pass me but luckily I could just about stay ahead and I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes.
“We decided to go for the two stop strategy which worked out well as our car suited the conditions towards the end of the race as the wind became a little less and the track rubbered in. In the end we made the right calls for both cars and it is great to be on the podium with Checo. We should all enjoy this for a few days until we get to Austria and start again.”
“The team did a fantastic job” – Pérez
Team-mate Pérez drove a solid French Grand Prix, the Mexican was on a completely different strategy to those around him and one which in the end proved to be the right one for him.
Pérez dropped off the leading trio early in the race in a bid to save his tyres and run deeper into the race, the plan worked perfectly as when the front three pitted Pérez continued to circulate. By the time Pérez did pit he was on much fresher tyres than both Mercedes with just enough laps to close them down. Hamilton proved to be just too far ahead, however Bottas was well within reach.
Pérez got onto the rear of Bottas with a few laps remaining and superbly overtook the number two Mercedes around the outside of the relentlessly quick Courbe de Signes, to make it a double podium for Red Bull and back-to-back podiums for Pérez.
“The Team did a fantastic job today with great strategy and making the right calls at the right time so well done to everyone here and back at the factory. It’s a great result for them which is what really counts and so I’m happy with that. On my side, this weekend wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, as drivers we only want to win so I just have to keep working hard, continue improving and getting better results with the great car that I’ve been given.
“Back to back podiums is still solid points but I just needed probably three more laps to get past Lewis for the 1-2 finish, so we’ll keep pushing to get it at our home race in Austria. I think it will be very good for me to have two races back to back in Spielberg as the first race will give me much more of an understanding of how the car performs around there and as a result a better baseline for race two. Hopefully we can be in contention for the win and continue this momentum.”