By winning the 2021 French Grand Prix Max Verstappen and Red Bull confirmed they have a driver and car package able to beat Mercedes at any track. But the two teams are, more or less, evenly matched. It was a tense race that was defined by two pit stops vs one. Mercedes elected to opt for one and Red Bull went for two. As it turned out two was the better option but it meant Max Verstappen would be in for a tough afternoon. And it didn’t begin to brightly, at the start the Red Bull maverik outbraked himself on the exit of turn 1, drifted wide, and dropped from first to second.
Verstappen had to bide his time until the first round of pitstops and used the undercut to narrowly retake the lead from Hamilton on lap 20 of 53. The Red Bull and Mercedes were never less than two seconds apart as Verstappen entered the pit lane for a second time on lap 32 for a fresh set of rubber. This move dropped Verstappen down to fourth, behind a yet-to-stop Perez and two one-stopping Mercedes.
To take victory Verstappen had to fight his way back into the lead. And he did just that. As Perez made his second pitstop Verstappen reeled in the two Mercedes ahead of him at a rapid rate. This was now a battle of tyre performance. Mercedes’ stubborn decision to one-stop put Verstappen in a superior position. He reeled in and despatched Bottas with ease. But time and laps were running out as Lewis Hamilton somehow managed to extract performance out of, by now, dead tyres.
Hamilton remarkably held out for as long as he could and at one point it seemed as though Verstappen would run out of laps. But with one lap to go Verstappen eased back into the lead with a fairly mandatory overtake on his rival. It was inevitable, on much older tyres Hamilton had no answer to Verstappen’s pace. The Mercedes driver all but conceded the lead to his Red Bull protagonist.
And to add more insult to injury Sergio Perez made it to the podium, rubber-stamping Red Bull’s two-stop strategy. Max Verstappen takes an 11 point advantage over Hamilton as the Grand Prix circus heads towards Austria.
2021 French Grand Prix: Race Results
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.