Race Report: Max Verstappen extends championship lead with crucial overtake on Lewis Hamilton
Red Bulls Max Verstappen has won the French Grand Prix!
The Dutch driver secured the 13th win of his career after an impeccable overtake on the Mercedes in the hands of Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap this afternoon.
Another race-long battle for the win kept spectators on their toes, while a smart pit from Red Bull for fresh medium tyres on lap 32 gave their leading driver the advantage in catching his closest competitor in the Mercedes.
Hamilton and Bottas took turns on the team radio to say they were struggling with their much older tyres, while Bottas lashed out at the team for not taking his advice of a two-stop option.
The pair ultimately both lost positions in the final laps today, with Hamilton in second and Bottas in fourth.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez managed to overtake Bottas after getting a great run down the backstraight, to land the final step on the podium.
At lights out, Verstappen headed off the track at turn two, allowing the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton to take the lead.
The Dutch driver remained ahead of Valtteri Bottas while Hamilton managed to stretch the advantage over Verstappen to 1.4s after the first lap.
Fernando Alonso was up two places to seventh after an impressive move on the first lap, while McLaren’s Lando Norris fell down the order and ended up in tenth behind his Aussie teammate Daniel Ricciardo after a mishap on Turn Two.
Verstappen’s intentions of catching up with the British world champion were clear as he quickly posted the fastest second lap in 1:39.613s.
By the end of Lap 4, Valtteri Bottas was following the front two closely, with Sergio Perez a couple of seconds off the second Mercedes in fourth.
Lewis Hamilton led by just over a second heading into Lap 9 but began to report rising tyre temperatures.
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo – both on the medium Pirellis – were battling it out in the midfield for 8th, with Norris remaining in 10th, and awaiting a suitable moment for the overtake.
Heading into Lap 10, Lewis Hamilton pointed out the graining on his front tyres over the team radio, but had still stretched his lead to 1.9s over Verstappen now – who could at this point see the second Mercedes of Bottas in his mirror, just 1.2s behind.
Lap 12 then saw Ricciardo use his DRS to finally get ahead of the Alpine of Fernando Alonso with his typical lunge into the chicane.
Moments later, Lando Norris Also got ahead of the Alpine as well, lifting the McLaren duo into eighth and ninth, as they moved to hunt down the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Moments later Vettel was up into the points on Lap 14 after making his move on Alonso – who was now back in 11th ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon.
Lap 20 saw Lewis Hamilton pit from the lead for a new set of hard tyres and rejoined the track just behind Max Verstappen on an equally fresh set of hards, while Perez was over 10 seconds out front on ageing mediums.
On Lap 24 Perez pitted from the lead, allowing Verstappen to resume his position out front and returned to the track in fourth behind the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
At the halfway mark Verstappen was .8s in the lead, followed by Lewis Hamilton in second and Bottas in third. The second Red Bull of Perez was in 4th 17.8s off his teammate, with Vettel was further afield with his teammate Lance Stroll in P5 and P6 respectively.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was in 7th, followed by the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in P8 and P9, with Lando Norris in 10th – chasing the prancing horses.
On Lap 32 Max Verstappen pitted, opting for fresh medium tyres, re-entering the race in fourth and 15s off the pace. Hamilton was now in the lead, 3.9s ahead of his teammate in 2nd while Verstappen was in third and determined to chase the win on his fresh tyres.
In the final ten laps, Verstappen was less than three seconds off Bottas, who had been on the team radio to say he had “no fronts” and was struggling for grip – meanwhile, Hamilton was leading his Finnish teammate by 4s.
Lap 44 saw Verstappen overtake Bottas for second place with just 5.1s to Hamilton in first. Bottas held Verstappen off on the DRS straight but then missed the chicane, allowing Verstappen to make his move.
Further back in third and fourth, Perez was gaining on Valtteri Bottas, who was now saying his tyres were “finished”, and after locking up heading into turn one there was just 1.1s between him and the second Red Bull.
Then on Lap 49 Perez finally made the overtake on Bottas after getting a great run down the backstraight, securing the final step on the podium for Red Bull.
On Lap 52, teammate Max Verstappen took the lead of the French Grand Prix after an impeccable overtake on Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen crossed the line in first, with Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail in second, followed by Sergio Perez in third.
A very disappointed Valtteri Bottas missed out on the chance of a podium finish, and let his frustrations be known on the team radio in the final laps saying, “Why does nobody listen to me when I said this was going to be a two-stopper?”
Meanwhile, the McLaren duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were in P5 and P6 respectively, joined in the midfield by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in P7 and P8.
Closing out the Le Castellet top ten this afternoon were the Aston Martin pair, Sebastian Vettel in P9 and Lance Stroll in tenth.