Max Verstappen and Red Bull showed a master class of strategy this weekend. Verstappen was on pole to start the race but made a crucial error at Turn 2 going wide right to allow Lewis Hamilton the lead after turn one. Many believed at that point that Hamilton would cruise to another French GP victory as he had in 2019. But, Hamilton was complaining about his tires on Lap 6 which could only mean that we were in for an interesting race.
On Lap 19, both Red Bull and Mercedes pitted Verstappen and Hamilton but Red Bulls choice to undercut was successful and just managed to beat Hamilton’s Mercedes by less than a car length. Verstappen held that lead until Lap 32 when he pitted for a second time to put on the medium set of tires. Lewis Hamilton was now in the lead with 13 laps older tires.
On Lap 42, Verstappen started his charge toward Hamilton. He quickly passed Valtteri Bottas on Lap 44 after Bottas turned wide on Turn 9, now he only had Hamilton in front of him. With 9 laps to go in the race, a 5 second gap and 13 laps fresher tires, Verstappen was going in for the kill. On Lap 52, Verstappen was within a second of Hamilton going into the “ligne droite du Mistral”, Verstappen had DRS and beat Hamilton to the chicane Nord and took the lead of the race with one lap to go. A large roar could be heard through the television at Paul Ricard.
Max Verstappen is now 12 points clear of Lewis Hamilton with a back-to-back in Spielburg, Austria at the Red Bull Ring, home circuit of Red Bull Honda Racing.
Questions from the Race
What is going on with Ferrari?
After Ferrari and Charles Leclerc had back-to-back poles at Monaco and Baku, both drivers finished out of the points at Paul Ricard.
Is it a tire set up issue?
Both drivers complained about tire degradation throughout the race and Leclerc even had to do a two stop strategy that had him finish at his lowest position of his career (P16).
An issue with non-street courses?
The two pole positions that Ferrari managed this season were both on street courses. Although, Sainz and Leclerc put in good Q3 laps that had them start the race in P5 and P7 respectively.
We shall see what happens at the Red Bull Ring over the next two weekends to find our answers.
Is Danny Ricciardo back?
After starting the season at the back of the pack, Danny Ricciardo finished P6 this weekend, his best finish with McLaren. It has been well known that Ricciardo has put in a lot of work at the McLaren factory in Woking, UK. Has all of his work paid off? Is he getting more comfortable with his MCL35M? The remainder of the season will help answer those questions.