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Verstappen Wins French Grand Prix Thanks To Late Race Hustle

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli


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An event first held back in 1906 and reinstated on the Formula 1 calendar in 2018, the French Grand Prix has been dominated by Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team in the previous two outings. However, the 2021 edition of the race on the Circuit Paul Ricard served as another outing in this current season where Mercedes and Hamilton would be challenged by Red Bull Racing led by the sports’ young superstar Max Verstappen. A rivalry presently living up to hopes a true race-after-race battle, the two top drivers in Formula 1 exchanged their advantages throughout the grand prix weekend in France.


After almost certain victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was foiled by a sudden tire failure while leading on the Baku City Circuit, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen appears regrouped for Formula 1's seventh round at the Circuit Paul Ricard. At the top of the lap time chart during the latter two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, the Dutch driver sailed to pole on the 5.842-kilometer (3.630-mile) track in Saturday’s qualifying. Max Verstappen’s second pole of the 2021 Formula 1 season came as a result of a 1-minute, 29.990-second lap time in Q3 topping the best efforts of the Mercedes-AMG team drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.


For Sunday’s 53-lap race on the Circuit Paul Ricard, the pole-sitting #33 Honda-powered speed machine launched well as the lights went out to start the grand prix but pressure from the #44 car from the German factory team was enough to force a mistake in turn one. Max Verstappen carried too much speed exiting the left turn corner allowing Lewis Hamilton to sail by to take the race lead. Hamilton would maintain a comfortable gap through the early stage of the event.


Photo Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG


A rarity among modern Formula 1 races, the 2021 French Grand Prix ran without a safety car. This occurrence allowed teams to freely plan their tire strategies over the duration of the event with the majority choosing a single-stop strategy. Most of the front-runners elected for the hard compound Pirelli tire option in their tire change between lap 16 and lap 24 including both Mercedes-AMG and Red Bull Racing entries. On lap 18, Verstappen’s Red Bull race car entered pit road a lap earlier than the leader. Once Lewis Hamilton pitted, the Dutch driver made exceptional use of his out lap just narrowly beating the #44 Mercedes car as it left pit exit into turn one. Red Bull Racing driver and Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez held the top spot in the running order until lap 24 when the Mexican made his one and only pit stop for tires.


Though Max Verstappen cycled back onto the track with a slim yet steady lead at the midpoint of the grand prix, his team introduced a radical plan of pitting the #33 car for a second occasion. Relinquishing the lead on lap 32, Verstappen’s car received medium compound tires for what would be daring proposition rewarding in a winning move. Coming out of the pit nearly 20 seconds behind Hamilton in fourth place, the Dutch driver quickly overtook teammate Sergio Perez and set sights on Valtteri Bottas. Recording laps considerably faster than the #77 car, Verstappen grabbed second place on lap 44 with a roughly 5-second interval between him and Hamilton. In the final laps, the Red Bull pilot cut the gap until, with two laps remaining, Verstappen passed the Mercedes in turn eight.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images/Honda


 

Max Verstappen’s third grand prix win in 2021, the French Grand Prix was ultimately a hat-trick on paper having captured both the pole position and fastest lap on the Circuit Paul Ricard. Having to overcome the opening lap miscue, Verstappen credited the success as “an amazing team effort”. “In the first stint I didn’t really have the pace to fight with Lewis so we took the risk to pit first and to be honest I didn’t expect the undercut to work so well that I would come out ahead.” Said Verstappen in a post-race news release.


Lewis Hamilton’s second place in the 2021 French Grand Prix put an end to an uncharacteristic podium drought for the Formula 1 superstar. Leaving Monaco and Baku without a top-three finish prior to the race in Le Castellet, Hamilton had not had two consecutive non-podium finishes since the latter part of the 2017 season. Losing the lead on lap 51, the reigning Formula 1 World Champion cited the superior speed line speed of the Honda-powered Red Bull Racing RB16B race car as well as worn tires on his #44 Mercedes-AMG machine. “Of course, we didn’t win and we had the lead but I had no tyres left at the end so unfortunately we lost the position, but it was still a good race.” Said Hamilton who was still pleased the effort of his entire team.


Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Making for a double podium result for Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez finished third after snatching the spot from Mercedes-AMG’s Valtteri Bottas with four laps remaining. While Perez was under investigation by the race stewards, the decision went in favour of the Mexican driver. Bottas crossed the line in fourth place having similar problems as his teammate on the hard compound tires late in the race. Due to the investigation on Perez, Mercedes chose not to pit Bottas for the purpose of contending for the fastest lap of the race.


Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo drove their respective Mercedes-Benz powered McLaren race cars to fifth and sixth place after 53 laps. France’s Pierre Gasly recorded his best French Grand Prix finish crossing the line in seventh place for Scuderia AlphaTauri. Also making a respectable showing in front of a home country crowd was the Alpine F1 Team as Fernando Alonso piloted the #14 machine to eighth place. The ninth and tenth place spots in the 2021 French Grand Prix were grabbed by the Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team. After struggling in the opening grand prix events with the organization, Sebastian Vettel has finishes in the points for after three consecutive races with ninth place at Circuit Paul Ricard being his most recent. The final point-scoring position in the grand prix was captured by Canada’s Lance Stroll. Starting in 19th place after a disastrous qualifying session, Stroll climbed through the field in the opening laps on Sunday and was aided by a single tire stop on lap 34 in his successful recovery to take tenth.


The 53-lap race was a difficult outing for the constructor that has won the French Grand Prix 17 times over the course of Formula 1 history. Scuderia Ferrari’s two cars driven by Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc qualified well in Saturday but suffered from tire degradation. Sainz was forced to surrender the tenth place spot to Lance Stroll in the late laps while Leclerc ran outside of the points for much of the race crossing the finish line in 16th place. The result for Ferrari was the first time the Italian team left a grand prix without scoring a championship point this season.


Next in store for the 2021 Formula 1 season is a pair of events at the Red Bull Ring in Austria with the Styrian Grand Prix running on June 27 and the Austrian Grand Prix being held on July 4.


  


2021 Formula 1 Season
French Grand Prix
Race Results
Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
5 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
7 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
8 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team Renault
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
11 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
12 63 George Russell Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team Renault
15 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
16 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
17 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
18 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
19 47 Mick Schumacher Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
2021 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship Points (After French Grand Prix)
Driver Total Points
Max Verstappen 131
Lewis Hamilton 119
Sergio Perez 84
Lando Norris 76
Valtteri Bottas 59
Charles Leclerc 52
Carlos Sainz Jr 42
Pierre Gasly 37
Daniel Ricciardo 34
Sebastian Vettel 30
Fernando Alonso 17
Esteban Ocon 12
Lance Stroll 10
Yuki Tsunoda 8
Antonio Giovinazzi 1
Kimi Raikkonen 1
George Russell 0
Nicholas Latifi 0
Mick Schumacher 0
Nikita Mazepin 0
2021 Formula 1 Contructors' Points (After French Grand Prix)
Constructor Engine Total Points
Red Bull Racing Honda 215
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 178
McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 110
Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari 94
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda 45
Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 40
Alpine F1 Team Renault 29
Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 2
Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz 0
Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari 0



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