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2021 French GP Roundup: Verstappen snatches victory from Hamilton on the penultimate lap at Paul Ricard

Red Bull with three consecutive wins in a season, and double podium at Paul Ricard. Is this a dream? And no red flags on race day at French Grand Prix! Who would have thought that?

The 2021 F1 championship is getting exciting with every other week! After a chaotic, full of thriller-packed Baku race last fortnight, the French GP provided us with another nail-biting experience this week. The Sunday afternoon duel among the top contenders was dominated by team strategy, with the Red Bull and Mercedes cars evenly matched on track. However, the Bulls ultimately secured a double podium as they hunt down the Mercedes duo on its favourable turf.

The start

Certainly, it was far from a straight-forward Sunday evening, with a pole-starting Verstappen having lost his lead after a mistake into the first chicane, and Hamilton after a Red Bull undercut. Max Verstappen has now extended his championship lead after superbly passing his title rival Lewis Hamilton, on the penultimate lap of the Circuit Paul Ricard.

It’s the third win of the 2021 season for the young Dutch powerhouse who now has a 12-point advantage in the drivers’ tally. For his team, RBR is sitting 37 points clear of their arch nemesis on the constructors’ table. The Silver Arrow Camp will be having some serious strategy discussions postmatch, for sure. Meanwhile, they talk over today’s mess, let us give you a re-tour of the French Circuit.

Let us do a team-by-team analysis and see all that transpired:

RedBull Racing

Max did it! Again! After getting robbed of those clear 25 points at Azerbaijan GP, Verstappen literally snatched Sir Hamilton’s win at the French circuit. The driver of the day made a first-lap error early in the game and lost his pole start lead, but made a very dramatic comeback and won the race in the very last lap of the race. Verstappen swept past a struggling Hamilton on the main DRS straight, thanks to the fresh tyres. After his second stop, the Bull rider charged up behind a one-stopping Hamilton in the closing stages and pounced on his prey on Lap 52 of 53.







Max’s teammate and last fortnight’s victor, Sergio Perez, also made it a first double podium for Red Bull this season, something that we could’ve seen at Baku if Max’s tyre wouldn’t have gone flat in the last moments of the race. Anyways, better late than never. Checo secured P3 in the second RB16 after a battle with Bottas and trailing behind Lewis Hamilton. RBR camp celebrated a much-deserved victory after showing a better strength all weekend. With both drivers on the podium, it was a near-perfect day for the ‘wings club’. And most definitely, a flying 2021 season too, as they have won three races in a row now for the first time since 2013. The team stretched their championship lead on the top of the constructors’ table after the Paul Ricard race, with a total score of 215.

McLaren Mercedes

This Mercedes team certainly had a better strategy at the French Grand Prix. Behind the top four, McLaren had the best race pace of the midfield. Lando Norris continued his superb season in fifth, ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo who got that big smile back on his face after a much-improved French GP weekend, with P6 on race day.

Norris qualified eighth, dropped to 10th behind his Australian partner on lap one, but ran a long first stint all the way to lap 24 and was then fast on his fresher tyres to the finish. The British Belgian subsequently overtook Gasly, Leclerc and Ricciardo on his way to the chequered flag. Interestingly, Norris remains the only driver to score points at every race this season, with his personal run stretching back 12 races to last November now. Ricciardo who started the race at P10 also pulled himself up of the cars running ahead with his trademark late-braking passes with a racy performance. The new McLaren joiner also passed Lando Norris into the very first corner, but the much earlier tyre change ultimately saw him home just behind his teammate.

AlphaTauri Honda

Trailing just 0.7 seconds behind Ricciardo’s MCL35M was Baku’s podium holder, Pierre Gasly who secured the seventh position at the French Grand Prix. The Frenchman had his sixth consecutive point-scoring finish at his homeland, however didn’t look much appeased with his Sunday finish. Gasly started from sixth and was able to get the better of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who lined up ahead of him, but dropped behind Daniel Ricciardo during the pit stop phase and was overtaken by Lando Norris later on. Although Gasly was unhappy to not beat at least one McLaren, he takes some solace from AlphaTauri delivering on a more consistent basis than Ferrari after both Sainz and Charles Leclerc failed to score.

His Japanese teammate also had a much better race day than the qualifiers. Yuki Tsunoda was on his first run in Q1 when he spun coming out of Turn 1, before sliding backwards into the barriers at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Recovering well from a pit lane start from a change of floor and gearbox due to the qualifier accident, the AlphaTauri driver managed to take 13th when the flag dropped.

Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari

Antonio Giovinazzi finished 15th after starting from P13 while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen didn’t manage to do any better than P17, the same spot he secured after the Saturday qualifier. The Alfa pair opted to go for the same strategy, starting on the hard compound tyre. While both made inroads when the medium shod runners pitted, neither quite had the pace today to keep ahead of the recovering Aston Martin cars. Besides Mercedes, they too will have to reconsider their strategy before the upcoming race at the Red Bull Ring.


Where was Schumacher at the start of the French GP? Even after starting the race at P15 on the Sunday evening, Mick traced his way back to his sweet spot by the end of the race. Why am I not surprised! Well, I guess he got a soft corner for that P19 position. The same can be said for his teammate Nikita Mazepin who looked quite comfortable in his usual position at the back of the race. Haas and consistency showing how relationships should be, I guess.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas

The team believed in its drivers who started P2 & P3 with Lewis leading the charge as it knew it had the race pace to challenge the Bulls. Lights went out, and so did Max at T1, and from that very moment, it was seeming to be a Lewis show. The race continued, a change in Bottas’ chassis (and maybe luck?) saw the Finnish driver catch Verstappen for his position, and is told by the team that “anything is possible”. The time for pitstops came, and perhaps this is where everything changed for the good. Not so much for the Silver Arrows, though.

At the early stages of the race, it wasn’t seeming to be a one-stopper, at least not for those who started in the Top 10 on Mediums. Bottas stopped, he got served very nicely this time around, and it was soon Lewis’ turn. He was given the green light for ‘Hammertime’ but he failed to engage that on time. How ironic. Meaning he lost the lead to Max. The Dutchman had to come in again as he was on a two-stopper, and it was Valtteri who became the deciding factor here as to who will win the race between his teammate and the Red Bull driver. Safe to say, Bottas didn’t come in between.

Valtteri was visibly struggling with the tyres, because hey, it was going to be a two-stopper, but since the team didn’t listen to his ‘requests’, he lashed out at them and well, drop a few f-bombs, too. Not liking this scary Bottas. Anyway, he was overtaken by Perez for P3 as he didn’t have the pace to engage in a battle again and so, he saw the chequered flag in P4.

Lewis, on the other hand, was engaged in a battle for the lead with Verstappen, but since the latter had much fresher tyres, Hamilton could do nothing except digest the fact that what he did with Red Bull in Spain, Red Bull did just that with him in France. UNO’s Reverse Card-like situation. He came home in P2. The last time he was on a three-race winless streak was back in 2019 (Belgium, Italy, and Singapore).

Former Mercedes driver and 2016 World Champion said, “Valtteri did a rubbish job in defending and Lewis should’ve closed the goddam door.” Thoughts, anyone?

Scuderia Ferrari

It was a good qualifying by the two Scuderia boys on Saturday. Not great, but good nonetheless. They were in a position where they could’ve scored some points, but that is not how it went now, did it? When it was time for the drivers to head out on the grid, Sainz managed to run wide and into the run-off area and we all know how tough the area of Paul Ricard is on the tyres, don’t we? The result was that his tyres were flat-spotted, but that is all I know. Maybe that was the reason why he couldn’t keep up with his pace and after starting from P5, finished in P11?

Switching focus to the other side of the garage, Charles Leclerc began his day’s proceedings from P7, but soon had the hot-charging Alonso on his tail for his position, and even after stopping twice (I guess?), it didn’t help him much. Both the drivers lost ground and nobody score any points. Car No.16 took the chequered flag in P16. A race to forget.

Aston Martin F1

The team knew it would be a task to score big points, but the determination is always there so, the drivers were ready for the battles. By the way, let me say this: the strategists at Aston are diamonds! By now you must’ve gotten a clue as to what am I talking about.

Sebastian started in P12, Lance was in P19, and both the drivers quickly made progress at the beginning of the race, and since they both started on the Hard compound, they ran very deep. Stroll pitted after 35-odd laps from P6, Vettel followed him soon from P5, both rejoined outside the Top 1, but since they had much fresher tyres, they were able to gain that lost time rapidly and bam, they were running P9 and P10, which is where they finished.

Seb said a mistake in the first stint cost him a chance of scoring even more points, plus had there been five more laps, he would’ve caught Alonso and the drivers ahead of him, surely. Three points in the bag for Aston Martin F1. Not a bad day at the office considering everything.

Alpine F1

That ‘rookie’ Fernando Alonso has been going quite well in the recent races, isn’t he? So much so, that he lined up in P9 with Ocon in P11. It was a fairly straightforward race for the two – Nando was gradually catching Leclerc for his position, but soon, lost his place to both the McLarens in the span of just three corners. Esteban didn’t have the pace to move further up the order and as such, finished his race in P14, with Car No.14 finishing in P8.

Williams Racing

Once again, it was George Mr. Saturday Russell who outperformed his car with teammate Latifi not too far behind. However, there isn’t much to say about their race, apart from the fact that putting aside the positions lost at the start, Russell finished in P12. IN A WILLIAMS! If only there were two DNFs. Speaking of no DNFs, today’s race happens to be one of the only ten races in F1’s history where there were zero retirements and only the sixth time in the turbo-hybrid era.

Nicholas was in P18. I can only hope that George gets that second Mercedes seat, no?

Now for the next two races in two weeks, the competition is moving to Red Bull’s home circuits in Austria. Does this mean Red Bull will finally be dethroning Mercedes this season? Well as things are turning out this season, no one can make a safe bet on it. However, one thing’s for sure, with the current momentum, the Bull will be hard to tame, even for the Silver Arrows.

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Himanshu Harsh

My love for automobiles is what fuels my writing. You can catch me twisting synth knobs when I'm not drooling over cars.

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