Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates from the podium after winning the French Formula 1 Grand Prix on the Paul Ricard racetrack in Le Castellet in the south of France
Verstappen stopped once again as his rival after Red Bull rolled the tactical dice and outwitted his Mercedes rivals.
Indeed, Hamilton will question a number of strategy calls made by his team after chairing the race’s opening talks.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez also fought his way past Bottas for third place, the Finn fourth and Lando Norris fifth for McLaren.
Verstappen, who crossed the finish line 2.9 seconds before Hamilton, extends his lead in the table to 12 points.
Max Verstappen from Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes in action at the end of the French Formula 1 Grand Prix
Hamilton led the first 19 of 53 laps. Verstappen seemed to have provided the perfect vanishing point after beating the Mercedes driver to the first corner.
But the Dutchman brought too much speed into the left turn and fell off the track, so that Hamilton could take the lead.
Verstappen returned to the track to keep Bottas behind, and so the order remained until the opening lap of the stops.
Mercedes blinked first and called Bottas on lap 17, hoping to overtake Verstappen. The Red Bull driver stopped on the following lap and drove out in front of Bottas.
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Oddly enough, Mercedes kept Hamilton out for an extra lap, and Verstappen used his fresh rubber to hold his own against his rival.
« I’m not sure what happened there, mate, » Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington told his frustrated driver after seeing the Red Bull man take the lead.
Hamilton kept Verstappen on his toes, moved within half a second of the championship leaders, but made no real impression.
Verstappen was on the radio warning his team that they cannot keep the relentless pace without stopping again.
And in fact, Verstappen had his second tire change with 21 laps to go.
It was a brave call from Red Bull, but one that would win them off. Mercedes knew that if they got Hamilton they would recapture the lead, so they decided to keep the Brit and Bottas out in the hopes that they would be able to reach the flag.
For Verstappen, the Dutchman was 18 seconds behind to overtake in 20 laps. With the bite between his teeth, Verstappen set successive best times, got Hamilton out 2.5 seconds in just one lap and nine remaining laps he overtook Bottas after the Finn, who was struggling with his worn rubber, missed the chicane.
« Why the hell didn’t anyone listen to me when I said it was going to be a two-stop race, » yelled. Bottas. « Bloody hell. »
Hamilton had a five-second lead, and Verstappen was building the world champion’s lead with every lap.
For the three remaining laps, Verstappen was just 1.5 seconds behind Hamilton and on the following lap he made his move in the chicane, with Hamilton being powerless to prevent him.
« When we decided on a two-stop strategy, it paid off, » said Verstappen after his third win of the season. “We had to work hard for it, but it was very worth it.
« We fought each other the whole race, so it will be like that for the rest of the season. »
Hamilton said: « I’m not sure how we lost that position today. We didn’t know how strong this [undercut] would be.
» They had a good strategy and it worked well . The only option I had was to stay outside as long as possible and hope that the tires would hold together. «
After the checkered flag, Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles apologized to Hamilton and said over the radio: » The goes on us. «
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