The opening station of the first triple-header of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Chamionship delivered a nail-biting French Grand Prix which saw Max Verstappen come out on top, beating the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton with a last-minute move.
Following a mistake at the start, Max Verstappen was forced to chase his arch rival, Lewis Hamilton, who seemed to have the stronger race car. The first stint indicated that Mercedes has the better tyre management at Le Catellet with both Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton enjoying the opening stint on high fuel on the Medium compound.
However, a vibration issue on Bottas’ car forced Mercedes to call the Finn in which triggered a chain reaction. Verstappen pitted just a lap after the Nastola-born driver with Hamilton coming in for fresh boots a lap after the Dutchman. The 23-year-old performed an eye-catching out lap, maximizing the power of the undercut effect and passed Hamilton.
When Verstappen complained about his tyres, Red Bull opted to stop him again. On the fresh mediums, Verstappen chased down Bottas and closed in on Hamilton for the dying moments of the 61st F1 race in France, making the decisive move stick on the penultimate lap to seal a third victory of the season and extend his championship lead.
Red BullMax Verstappen, 1st
“Winning this race was an amazing Team effort and to have a double podium at a track like this really shows the hard work everyone is putting in here and in Milton Keynes at our factory and Honda’s. Of course I would have liked to pull off into the distance and cruise ahead on my own but it doesn’t often work like that in Formula 1 and we really had to work for it today. You can see how close the two teams are and to win like this on strategy with two laps to go is very rewarding.
"It was certainly not an easy race and I got caught out at Turn 1 and lost the rear which meant I had to go off the track and lost a position to Lewis. I was of course upset at the time but I knew there was a long race ahead and I had to focus. 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. They were pushing hard to try and pass me but luckily I could just about stay ahead and I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes.
"We decided to go for the two stop strategy which worked out well as our car suited the conditions towards the end of the race as the wind became a little less and the track rubbered in. In the end we made the right calls for both cars and it is great to be on the podium with Checo. We should all enjoy this for a few days until we get to Austria and start again.”Sergio Perez, 3rd
“The Team did a fantastic job today with great strategy and making the right calls at the right time so well done to everyone here and back at the factory. It’s a great result for them which is what really counts and so I’m happy with that. On my side, this weekend wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, as drivers we only want to win so I just have to keep working hard, continue improving and getting better results with the great car that I’ve been given.
"Back to back podiums is still solid points but I just needed probably three more laps to get past Lewis for the 1-2 finish, so we’ll keep pushing to get it at our home race in Austria. I think it will be very good for me to have two races back to back in Spielberg as the first race will give me much more of an understanding of how the car performs around there and as a result a better baseline for race two. Hopefully we can be in contention for the win and continue this momentum.”
HaasMick Schumacher, 19th
“Overall, we had a very decent weekend with our first Q2 appearance. We knew the race was going to be difficult, but I was optimistic, which I think for ourselves is important. Today, we didn’t have the pace to fight with the Williams or anybody around us. It just means we have to work harder, I have to work harder and hopefully soon we will be closer again.”Nikita Mazepin, 20th
“I think starting on the alternative strategy to try something different wasn’t the best as we were caught out. A lot of teams and drivers were caught out by the increased tyre wear than what we were potentially expecting and it’s difficult to judge the tyre management being on the other set. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity at the start of the race and I took it, there just wasn’t enough pace towards the end.”
MercedesLewis Hamilton, 2nd
"Congratulations to Max, he did a great job today. The Red Bulls had better straight line speed all weekend but considering that we had such a difficult Friday, I'm really happy with this result. 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.
„We've got to find some pace, that's for sure. Most of the time we lost today was on the straights, so we've got to dig deep, try and figure out where that is, and whether it's power or drag but overall, we've still got a good package. We didn't know how strong the undercut was going to be but what was really surprising was just how we ran out of that front tyre so early on but obviously they had a good strategy and it worked really well for them."Valtteri Bottas, 4th
"I gave it everything I could to try and finish on the podium, we thought with the cooler temperatures the tyres would hold on for longer but they didn't, our predictions in terms of tyre life didn't quite match the reality. I was one of the first to stop for the Hard tyre, my front-left tyre wear was quite high and the last stint wasn't fun at all today, the last 10 laps with the Hard tyre were terrible - I had no front tyres left. We didn't pit for fresh tyres at the end to set the fastest lap because Sergio was under investigation, so we wanted to stay out. A disappointing race, especially because my overall pace this weekend was good but at least I got some points."
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo, 6th
“Definitely a positive Sunday. I think it was the race we were hoping for but not the one we expected. I don’t think we expected our closest competitor to score no points, and for us to be the best of the midfield with both cars. That was our dream race and we managed to pull it off. I’m really happy with the race, although if I’m honest, I wasn’t totally happy with the car. I was struggling from the laps to grid and then for the whole race.
„But it felt like everyone else, besides Lando, was struggling more. It was a fun race and I’m happy we brought it home in fifth and sixth for the team today. It’s about time we got back in these positions, so it was a positive day.”Lando Norris, 5th
“Obviously I’m really happy. I wasn’t really expecting a P5 coming into today, even with a perfect race. I just didn't think we would have the pace that we did. It was tricky with the tyre management but a lot better than we hoped, which is always good news. A good one for us as a team, a fifth and a sixth, one of the best team results this season. Overall a fun race. Hopefully we can continue this into the next few races.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly, 7th
“I think objectively it was a good race, we finished behind some strong competitors and we can’t be too dissatisfied with that. Obviously deep inside I would’ve liked to have finished even further up the grid in front of my home crowd, but it was a difficult race and I think we did the best we could’ve today. We lost two positions with the pitstop, both Ricciardo and Charles getting the undercut, and that cost us a bit.
„We’ll have to review the data and see if we could’ve done anything differently. I gave everything I could out there today, and we had some great fights, so I have to be pleased with that. At the end of the day I think to finish P7 is still a strong race for us and we’re taking home some good points.”
“The first lap was really good, I started from the pit lane and managed to make up three places. We got stuck behind the Alfa Romeos, who were on a different compound, so we tried to make the undercut work with the hards. I had to push from the very beginning on that tyre though and by the end of the race they were completely gone. Again, I have more mileage and race experience in a Formula 1 car so that’s really positive for me. I now just need to work on my qualifying so that I can start the race further up the grid and have a better chance of scoring points.”
AlpineEsteban Ocon, 14th
“It was not the race we were hoping for today and we’ve had a disappointing weekend overall. Today it felt we were lacking something, and we have things to review. The pace wasn’t there on either tyre, they were degrading quite quickly, and it meant we weren’t able to push towards the points. We’ll learn from this weekend and move forward. The next race is next week, and we aim to come back strongly."Fernando Alonso, 8th
“We started ninth and finished eighth and all in all we executed the race how we wanted, so I am happy with the result today. We weren’t expecting the tyres to degrade like they did and our Medium tyres didn’t last very long at the beginning of the race. I was a little bit worried but when we switched to the Hards we showed strong pace and we carried this through to the end and it looked like we might be able to overtake Gasly and Ricciardo ahead in the last few laps. We’ve had similar performances at a few circuits now on both Saturday and Sunday, so I think we can be a bit more relaxed that this is our real position and not the one we showed in Monaco.”
Aston MartinSebastian Vettel, 9th
“I think we had to do something different with the strategy today [by pitting late] and it worked out for us quite nicely with both cars inside the points. Unfortunately, I went off the track in the first stint and lost a lot of time because I was just pushing a bit too hard. Without that, I would have been closer to the group of cars ahead and with fresher tyres at the end.
„So maybe we could have finished a bit higher up if things had been perfect. It was hard to be consistent in such windy conditions, which were tricky for everybody to judge. But we made the best of things and it was a strong performance by the whole team with competitive race pace.”Lance Stroll, 10th
“I was comfortable in the car and we were able to extract some good pace today. Paul Ricard is normally a track with little overtaking, but I managed to make all of my passes on track. Conditions were a bit tricky out there because the wind was changing from lap to lap, and there was quite a bit of tyre degradation across the field. Towards the end of the race, a lot of drivers were struggling for grip and we were able to take advantage to finish P10. It was a well-earned result and a good strategy certainly helped. Getting both cars into the points is a decent result, especially because we started P19. We have made progress with our race pace, but we need to make further gains on Saturday to help continue our consistent points-scoring form.”
FerrariCharles Leclerc, 16th
"It was a very difficult race today. Both Carlos and I struggled on the two compounds we ran. Towards the end, we made another stop for a fresh set of Mediums on my side, to see whether there was something we could do better.
"But it was the same as on the first stint: okay for three to four laps followed by heavy degradation. It is a big weakness and the main thing that we have to focus on now is understanding and improving for the future."Carlos Sainz, 11th
"It is clear that today we didn’t perform well and that we lacked pace. Since the very beginning we really struggled with degradation and we carried that issue through the entire race, regardless of the compound.
"Despite my best efforts, it was impossible to hold our initial position. We must analyse what happened, understand the issue and try to address it. If there is a team capable of doing that, it’s this one. A double header in Austria awaits and I’m sure we will bounce back."
"It was a really good afternoon. We made a couple of overtakes, including Tsunoda on track, and managed to finish ahead of Ocon and the Alfa Romeos, too. The conditions out there were tricky, and it was hard to keep temperature in the tyres without too much graining, but the car felt good and we made the strategy work really well. Finishing 12th on merit is a great achievement and I would go as far as saying it’s probably the best race I’ve ever had with the team."
Nicholas Latifi, 18th
"I had a good start and did well in the opening corners, but after the first lap I had no grip coming from the tyres and was sliding around for a lot of the race. About 12 laps from the end something improved and we found some pace, so it wasn’t so bad in the end, but it was a little too late to make any impact. Overall, there are a few question marks so we’ll investigate and make sure things are better for the races in Austria."
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen, 17th
“We will need to understand why we couldn’t replicate the good performance we had recently. I had a good start, then we struggled with tyre management, but I think it was the same for everyone: in general, we didn’t really have the speed we enjoyed lately. We had a much better pace when we switched to mediums, but by then we were already a bit too far back and, with all the time we lost to blue flags, we couldn’t make a difference to the final position. We’ll analyse this race and see how to improve for Austria.”Antonio Giovinazzi, 15th
“Unlike the last couple of races, we did not have the pace to get into the points today. We were good on the single lap yesterday, so we will need to understand what happened today. In the end, it was not an easy race, struggling in the first stint with the hard tyres and then not making enough progress on the mediums. I am looking forward to being back in the car in Austria: different track, different conditions and hopefully a different, better outcome.”