When Max Verstappen locked up on the first lap, giving away his pole position to Lewis Hamilton, it looked like we were set for another Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen podium. After coming within touching distance of pole in Baku and being robbed by a tyre failure, Red Bull wasn’t about to let a win slip through their fingers. The French GP showed that on strategy Red Bull had the upper hand over Mercedes, positioning both their drivers on different strategies to bring home a double podium for the Championship leaders.
The Championship Leaders
Before the race, Christian Horner said that “if we can beat Mercedes here, we can beat them anywhere”, referencing Mercedes’ previous dominance of the French racetrack.
After a pitstop error by Mercedes, sending Hamilton out a lap too late, Verstappen managed to regain his pole position. On fresher tyres, Hamilton looked as though he was creeping up on Verstappen. In a reversal of the events of the Barcelona GP, Red Bull pulled the trigger first and brought Verstappen in for a second pit stop at lap 32.
Verstappen quickly closed the twenty-second gap, passing Bottas on lap 44 before hunting down his Championship rival. Perez, playing the long game with tyre management, overtook Bottas on lap 49. Verstappen overtook Hamilton to clinch the victory in a strategic win with a lap and a half remaining.
A frustrated Bottas came onto the radio to air his anger with Mercedes’ strategy after reporting tyre struggles and suggested a two-stop before Verstappen’s second pit stop.
Verstappen also bagged the point for fastest lap and was named Driver of the Day.
Hamilton spent the weekend wearing his special edition Canadian cap, on what should have been the Canadian GP. His Mercedes strategy team grovelled with an apology, saying over the radio that “this one’s on us” after two strategic mistakes cost them the top two places on the podium.
Elsewhere On the Grid
Land Norris came in as best of the rest with an impressive race after dropping out of the points in lap one. His McLaren teammate finished sixth, with Pierre Gasly, Fernando Alonso, and the two Aston Martins finishing the point scorers. The Ferraris finished outside the points, with Sainz in 11th and Leclerc experiencing tyre trouble before crossing the finished line in 16th.
French team Alpine unveiled their special edition French GP cap, with Ocon wearing it throughout the weekend. The French driver announced earlier this week that he signed a 3-year contract with Alpine, with Alpine CEO Rossie describing the extension decision as a ‘no brainer’.
This GP marked the first of three back-to-back races, with the next race at Red Bull’s home track in Austria. It promises to be another intense weekend on a track that notoriously hasn’t been kind to Red Bull. Verstappen races into Austria 12 points ahead of Hamilton, with his teammate third in the Driver’s Championship. Red Bull lead the Constructors Championship over Mercedes by 37 points, with McLaren firmly in third ahead of Ferrari.