French GP F1 Race Report: Verstappen Beats Hamilton on the Final Lap!

Published 06/20/2021, 10:31 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drives past his team members as he wins the race REUTERS/Eric Gaillard


Max Verstappen managed to fend off the feisty Mercedes F1 duo, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to win his first-ever French GP. What’s more, he has officially ended the Brackley outfit’s reign on the Circuit Paul Ricard.

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Behind the pair was Sergio Perez, who made a stellar move on Valtteri Bottas in the dying moments of the race to secure the final spot on the podium, handing Red Bull a double podium finish.

Bottas had another horrendous race after Mercedes ignored his request for a two-stopper, which eventually shattered his hopes of securing P2.

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Race start- Max Verstappen loses to Lewis Hamilton

It was quite a decent pull-away from both the title contenders with Verstappen managing to keep the Briton at bay. However, misery hit the Dutchman going into Turn 1; he was quite opportunistic and attempted to late brake only to miss the turn.

Verstappen had to avoid the kerbs, taking the longer route and subsequently handing the lead to Hamilton. Luckily though, despite having poor grip from running wide off the track, Verstappen managed to hold the other Mercedes off.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in action at the start of the race REUTERS/Yves Herman

Meanwhile, it was an incredible start for both the Aston Martin drivers, who made up a significant number of places. While Vettel managed to get into the Top-10 after starting from P12, Stroll found his way up to P13 from P19 by the end of Lap 14.

Massive tire degradation and the first round of pit stops

Since heavy rains lashed over the circuit hours before the race, most of the rubbers were washed away, leaving a ripe circuit in hand.

Hence, most of the teams were caught by surprise, citing how quickly the tires started to degrade. It all started with Hamilton, who reported to his team about the massive graining.

Bottas subsequently acknowledged the same, who was later joined by Sainz and fellow Spaniard, Alonso.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action during the race REUTERS/Yves Herman

Leclerc was the first to hit the pits by as early as Lap 15, followed by Ricciardo and Bottas on Lap 17. Sainz and Gasly, too, opted to stop on Lap 18 but failed to hold on to their positions coming out of the pits, as they ended up losing to the undercut by Ricciardo and Leclerc.

However, the other McLaren driver, Norris, and the Aston Martin duo opted to run long on their respective tires.

Battle for F1 win: Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen vs Valtteri Bottas

At the top, Hamilton pitted on Lap 20, just a lap later than his rival, Verstappen. And yet again, the undercut proved effective, as the Dutchman jumped past Hamilton going into Turn 1. Red Bull, however, decided to keep Perez out on the track, who eventually pitted on Lap 25.

Hamilton would have enjoyed battling for P1 against Verstappen. But, his teammate wasn’t looking to give it easy, as Bottas constantly stayed within the crucial 1-second gap, making it a three-way fight for the victory.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in action during the race REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

On Lap 33, Verstappen decided to pit for a set of Medium tires, leaving Mercedes with a dilemma of whether to box Hamilton or not. Ultimately, the Briton chose to stay out.

And the entire hope rested on Bottas and his potential ability to hold Verstappen off when he looked to close down the gap on the fresh tires. Unfortunately, the Finn failed to do so, as he unleashed the Dutchman upon Hamilton by as early as Lap 44.

Just a lap before the chequered flag, Verstappen’s incredible effort paid off as he beat Hamilton to secure P1. And that was the chequered flag.

What was happening in the midfield?

Ferrari and Alpine ended up being the worst-hit teams, as both the outfits chose to pit earlier than the others, leaving them with a major tire disadvantage over the others.

Meanwhile, there was Stroll, who pitted on Lap 35 after putting up a stellar stint on the hard tires. But, Vettel ended up being the last driver on the grid to box, after running on hard tires for 38 mammoth laps, setting himself up for a late charge on fresh tires.

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Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 18, 2021 Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel during practice REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Subsequently, their rivals, McLaren, took control of P5 and P6, portraying themselves as the best of the rest. The two were followed by Gasly and Alonso. Vettel and Stroll closed out the Top-10 as they enjoyed a rewarding 3 points to the tally.

Overall, what a race this turned out to be! It was yet another Max Verstappen-Lewis Hamilton duel. Only this time, it was the championship leader who won the race to extend his lead on the championship table.

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But, will we get to see a fightback from Hamilton over the upcoming weekend at Red Bull’s den?

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Rohit Kumar

934 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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