Verstappen leaves it late to win thriller in France

The Dutchman extends his lead to Lewis Hamilton

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 3:44 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th June 2021, 3:46 pm
Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton in France
Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton in France

Max Verstappen survived a first lap off to hunt down and pass Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap to claim victory at the French Grand Prix.

The Dutchman ran off the track at turn 2 to allow Hamilton to claim the lead for the first stint. The undercut proved to be huge though, and Verstappen retook the lead when Mercedes' strategists dropped the ball in allowing Hamilton to run longer.

Much of the radio chatter from the drivers hinted that the tyres would not last the duration and would require a second stop, and Red Bull pulled the trigger first but the Mercedes pair remained out on track, leaving mouthwatering finale.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Verstappen hunted down Hamilton on worn tyres in the closing stages and caught the reigning champion with two laps to go to claim the win.

Behind, the battle at the front, a furious Valtteri Bottas was unable to hold off Sergio Perez for third - the Finn calling for a second stop very early in his second stint.

The result means Verstappen extends his championship lead to 12 points.

Verstappen said: "Once we made the first stop, the hard tyres wouldn't last. The two stop luckily paid off. We had to work hard but it's rewarding.

"I had a lot of backmarkers to come through but we got that battle at the end.

"We fought all through the race, and I think it'll be like this all season."

Hamilton said: "Max did a great job, they had better strength all weekend. I had no tyres left at the end, but it was a great race.

"We've got to find some pace, that's for sure. We have to dig deep and find where that is. We've got a good package.

"The only option I had was to stay out for the second stop and hope the tyres stuck."

Perez said: "Staying out longer has paid off. It was hard to stay behind cars but the wind eased and it made things easier.

"It was a good strategy for the team."

Lando Norris stopped late to charge through the field and claim fifth, ahead of his McLaren team-mate Daniel Riccardo. Pierre Gasly was seventh at his home Grand Prix, leading Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.