21 June 2021, Le Castellet: Max Verstappen secured a thrilling French Grand Prix victory ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing Honda teammate Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez after switching to a potentially risky two-stop strategy that saw him give up the lead midway through the race.
After erasing a 16-second gap to Hamilton in the latter stages of the race and with less than two laps remaining, Verstappen powered past the Mercedes driver to secure a superb 13th career win and extend his lead over Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship to 12 points.
Checo, meanwhile, superbly worked a one-stop strategy, going deep into the race on his first stint before taking on hard tyres. The late visit to the pits allowed him to close down Valtteri Bottas in the final stages and muscle his way past the Finn on lap 49 to seal his second podium finish of the season, as well as the Team’s first double podium of 2021.
Discussing his win, Max Verstappen said: “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 One 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.”
Mobil 1 recently developed a breakthrough engine oil in collaboration with Honda Research and Development and Red Bull Racing Honda. The new Mobil 1 RB16B Engine Oil is designed specifically for the new Honda power unit, helping deliver maximum power without compromising protection or fuel efficiency.
The new upgrade contributed to the performance of the Team with drivers Verstappen and Perez leading for much of the race. To learn more about the new upgrade, click here to head to Mobil 1’s Virtual Grandstand.
Discussing his podium,Sergio Perez said: “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.”
Thanks to his pace on medium tyres in his final stint, Verstappen was also able to collect the point on offer for fastest lap thanks to his time of 1:36.404, set just after he took on the new set.
Max's win and fastest lap put him on 131 points, 12 ahead of Hamilton, while Checo extends his third-place lead over Norris to eight points, 84 to 76. In the Constructors’ Championship, the Team now has 215 points, 37 ahead of Mercedes.
Commenting on the race, Team Principal Christian Horner said: “I’m so proud of the whole Team to bring home back to back race wins and a double podium which extends our lead in both championships. Max got a good start but lost the lead after an early excursion which we managed to survive and, after a stonking out lap following his first pit stop, he recovered track position. We didn’t want to find ourselves in the same position as we did in Barcelona so we pulled the trigger and went for the two stop which thankfully paid off today. It’s always a difficult thing to pit from the lead with 21 laps to go but we don’t shy away from risks and went for it.
“On Checo’s side, we split the strategy with a one stop which he made work coming home in third place so all round it was a fantastic Team performance. You can see how close it is between the two teams, there is very little between the cars so we’ve just got to keep pushing and looking for more performance. There’s such a long way to go in this championship so you can’t take anything for granted but now we’ll take this momentum with us to Austria for the first of two home Grands Prix for the Team.”
Next week the paddock heads to the Team’s home circuit, the Red Bull Ring, for the Austrian GP and Styrian GP double header across consecutive weekends.
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