The most thrilling French Grand Prix since Formula 1 returned to Paul Ricard three years ago culminated in Max Verstappen passing Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the race to win.
It marks Red Bull’s third victory in a row, the first time it has achieved that since 2013, and it allows the team and Verstappen to extend their respective championship leads.
Verstappen and Red Bull weren’t the only winners from the race. Our writers pick out the biggest benefactors from the French GP, and those who will be leaving for the Red Bull Ring double-header with a point to prove.
Mugging its main rival with an undercut gave Red Bull a serious shot at winning this race after Verstappen’s Turn 1 error had threatened to consign him to second place.
Then a bold strategy call gave Verstappen a serious workload and must have left the Red Bull hierarchy ageing dramatically as the final laps of the race approached.
As it turned out, Red Bull’s call was the right one. Mercedes and Hamilton have won several grands prix with such decisions – now it seems Verstappen can be trusted to pull those off too.
Sergio Perez mugging Valtteri Bottas late on for third place reinforced Red Bull’s joy. It was a very good drive from Perez who fell away at the start but kept close enough to have a say in the race’s outcome – ultimately, his presence meant Mercedes couldn’t risk a Hamilton pitstop without losing track position.
And the offset he gave himself with his long first stint set him up for a nice second one, which meant his one-stop strategy worked a treat. He was rewarded with a second podium in a row and Red Bull got its biggest points haul of the season to extend its constructors’ lead further. – Scott Mitchell
A sort of ‘natural’ way of note-taking during a grand prix these days is the almost non-stop online conversation I have with my colleague Edd Straw.
About 25 minutes into the race, I sent him this: “P5/6 on the cards for McLaren at this rate.”
Honestly, at the time I thought it was an optimistic expression of an “upper limit”. Now I can look back on it fairly smugly – but the real reason for mentioning it is that it shows the extent of the McLaren turnaround.
In the space of a few laps, they’d gone from ninth and 10th in a midfield train to having a ‘Class B’ one-two on the cards – but it all hinged on the pace on hard tyres, especially as both lost a bit of ground to cars that had stopped earlier.
McLaren doesn’t have the one-lap pace Ferrari does, maybe not even that of AlphaTauri, but its race-day executions this season have been superb.
To come away with an 18-point haul and storm back into third place in the constructors’ championship is a mighty Sunday’s work. – SM
This was a big weekend for Alpine, with no lack of top brass from Renault Group keeping a close eye on their home race.
Alonso had a difficult time in the first stint with graining on the mediums, but showed better pace once he had switched and was able to pick off the Ferraris to take eighth place.
Had Pierre Gasly ahead not benefitted from being parked in the DRS zone of Daniel Ricciardo, Alonso perhaps could have gone even further. – Edd Straw
While ninth and 10th sounds like small change after second place in Baku, given the pace of the car wasn’t spectacular and Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll started 12th and 19th, it represented a good return.
Both went deep into the race after starting on hards and showed good pace at the end of their stints, in particular Vettel, with the three points banked important on a day when it could easily have blanked. – ES
George Russell had a poor start to his race, dropping down to 18th at the first corner, having started from 14th on the grid.
But after pitting for the hard tyres, Russell found himself back in the midfield and in a battle with Yuki Tsunoda for the remainder of the race.
He passed the AlphaTauri in the latter stages of the race, after the pair had overtaken Kimi Raikkonen. The Tsunoda overtake earned the Williams driver 12th place, his best result of the season so far. – Rob Hansford
Given the was the possibility of winning this race, to emerge with second and fourth place for Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and an 11-point swing against Mercedes in the constructors’ championship has to constitute failure.
Doubly so given that could have been mitigated by making a late second stop with Bottas to take the fastest lap, but Mercedes was waiting to see if Sergio Perez would pick up a penalty.
This didn’t happen, and Bottas fell outside of a five-second margin at the chequered flag anyway. – ES
An abysmal pointless race for Ferrari that was far too reminiscent of a 2020-spec Ferrari race as opposed to the far stronger start its made to the 2021 season.
Carlos Sainz qualified as the top ‘Class B’ entrant in fifth place on Saturday, and Charles Leclerc effectively assumed that position with an early pitstop, but things quickly turned sour for both and Sainz and Leclerc ended up in 11th and 16th places respectively. Both drivers were baffled by their lack of pace after the race, with Sainz admitted that something was “really wrong”.
On the day McLaren picked up 18 points, it has severely damaged Ferrari’s hopes of claiming third place in the constructors’ championship and it will need to put on strong fightback at the Red Bull Ring. – Josh Suttill
If this was painful for Ferrari, it was horrendous for its usual hero.
Leclerc was gracious in qualifying defeat yesterday, with no qualms about admitting that while the car wasn’t great at Paul Ricard, Sainz was doing a better job at getting around the problems.
A very early first pitstop looked like it turned things around for Leclerc by vaulting him to the net head of the ‘best of the rest’ pack, but it was just storing up a problem for later.
Going into freefall down the order and being passed by all his main rivals, then making a costly second stop and making zero progress afterwards from the lapped 16th, he ended up in was a miserable second half of Leclerc’s race.
From back-to-back poles to failing to catch Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo for 15th. What a contrast. – Matt Beer
Fresh from signing a new three-year deal with Alpine, Esteban Ocon had an unremarkable home race. He started on the hard tyres but didn’t take them anywhere near as long as the likes of the Aston Martin drivers, meaning he a lengthy run on the mediums for the second half of the race.
He finished in 14th place right behind the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, who had started from the pitlane. In 2021, he’s often been a match for Alonso, but today he finished six places behind his team-mate. – JS
Schumacher starred in qualifying when he secured 15th on the grid – albeit aided by a Q1 shunt that prevented his rivals from going any quicker.
But he had a sloppy opening lap which undid all of his hard work. He slipped to 19th place with an off-track moment and then was passed by his Haas team-mate Nikita Mazepin a few laps later.
Schumacher recovered well to finish ahead of Mazepin, but considering the pace he showed in practice and qualifying, he should have given the Williams and Alfa Romeo duos a harder time. – JS