Verstappen Bouncing Back from Baku
Max Verstappen has extended his lead in the Drivers' Championship after scoring 26 points in the French Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s tactical race concluded with a double podium of P1 and P3, split by Hamilton who was the race leader for 51 laps of the 53-lap race.
Verstappen had a tricky start as he locked up in turn 1 to give Hamilton the race lead. He then spent the rest of the race catching the two Mercedes who performed a one stop race, compared to Verstappen who drove a two-stop race. The change to medium tyres on lap 32, gave Verstappen fresh tyres to hunt down the Mercedes cars and regain his grid starting position. It was only with one and a half laps to go that Verstappen overtook Hamilton who was hoping to make up for the lost points in Baku.
Verstappen’s teammate Checo pitted once on lap 25 and with his great tyre usage, was able to stick with the top podium racing group. Once Verstappen had pitted for the second time, it was Checo’s job to let his teammate pass and aim to overtake a struggling Bottas. With four laps to go, Checo successfully overtook Bottas, proving that he is a worthy Red Bull seater and has the ability to help them win the Constructors’ championship – which they now lead by 37 points. Christian Horner will most certainly be the happiest Team Principal after the team's performances this weekend.
Once again Hamilton’s pit stop was not quick enough for him to drive out into his preferred position. The Mercedes pitted on lap 19 and drove out behind Verstappen. This slow pit stop gave Red Bull the lead in P1 and P2, which of course is not what Toto Wolff wants to see.
Hamilton radioed multiple times throughout the race about his tyres not being able to hold on to see the chequered flag. Whether this was to play mind games or not is unsure as he put up a strong fight against Verstappen, but it was not enough to finish first. Though it was not Hamilton’s fault this time as there was no pressing of the wrong button, instead his race plan was purely not as good as Red Bull’s.
Valtteri Bottas was again a helper to Hamilton. It was radioed that Bottas was to stay in his position behind Hamilton, implying to slow Verstappen down and keep Hamilton in the lead. However, this was not successful as Bottas’ tyres were ruined and he made the mistake of locking up as Verstappen crept up behind him, not actually in DRS. However, that did not matter as the two drivers raced wheel to wheel, with Verstappen edging towards P2 and successfully gaining that position.
Whilst this exciting battle at the front was uncovering, the middle pack saw a turn of events.
Daniel Ricciardo had a flying start as he made up two positions in the first lap, overtaking his teammate, Norris. He then went on to hunt down the two Ferrari’s and Gasly, with Norris following his lead. The two drivers worked together to place them in P5 and P6, gaining vital points to place them third in the Constructors’ championship, 16 points ahead of their rivals Ferrari.
Ferrari had a horrendous day with neither of their cars finishing in point positions. After qualifying in strong positions, Leclerc and Sainz seemed to not be at one with the track and car. Both drivers were painfully overtaken throughout the race, Leclerc even being lapped by Hamilton. Hopefully, this does not carry on in the triple header for Ferrari; they will be wanting to make up for the lost points in today's race.
After an awful qualifying from Lance Stroll, the Aston Martin driver finished P10, making up nine places and gaining a point for the team. He was joined by his teammate, Vettel, who finished P9, a positive race and outcome for Aston Martin Racing.
Mr Super Saturday, George Russell, had a terrific race after an unsteady start and finished in his highest position this year, P12. The Williams driver is yet to score a point but showed considerable improvement today as he finished two places out of the points. Russell again finished ahead of his teammate, Nicholas Latifi, and showed great racing improvement in the yet to score Williams car.
Christian Horner said before this weekend that if Red Bull can beat Mercedes on the French circuit, then they can beat them anywhere. Only time will tell as Verstappen leads the Drivers’ championship and Red Bull sit comfortably first in the Constructors’ Championship. Can Verstappen keep his lead in the Drivers' Championship? Only Austria knows.