How Verstappen rescued a victory he’d thrown away

2021 French Grand Prix review

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In Bahrain Max Verstappen fluffed a late-race pass on Lewis Hamilton and handed victory in the season-opening race to his championship rival.

In Spain Hamilton dived into the pits before his rival, seeing off a potential threat by being the first onto fresh tyres, and won again.

In France there were opportunities to make the same mistakes again. But Verstappen and Red Bull avoided them, and made amends for what looked like a race-losing error within seconds of the start.

Verstappen hands Hamilton the lead

When the F1 drivers ventured out of the Paul Ricard pits for their first laps since qualifying, they discovered remarkably different track conditions. Heavy rain had fallen in the morning – the track was awash during the F3 race – and although the track had dried it was cooler by more than 15C.

The effect that had upon the cars’ handling was profound. Moreover, it contributed to the most unpredictable race Paul Ricard has seen since F1 returned to the track three years ago.

Paul Ricard, 2021
Verstappen slipped up at the start
The first surprise came as the field rounded turns one and two. Or, in the case of Verstappen, turn one, as he cut across the inside of the right-handed turn two.

Hamilton took up the lead, though to begin with Verstappen sat within close range. Sergio Perez didn’t have the same immediate speed as his team mate, so the leading trio drew away, Perez another four seconds in arrears, and Carlos Sainz Jnr rapidly disappearing behind them in fifth place on what was going to prove a dreadful afternoon for Ferrari.

Having stayed little more than two seconds behind Hamilton, Verstappen suddenly lost a second on lap 15. This looked like a pivotal moment – a chance for Mercedes to take their first pit stop, bank the advantage and ensure Hamilton could motor home in the lead.

Surprisingly, they chose to bring Bottas in. The team later explained this wasn’t an attempt to bag a one-two by jumping Bottas ahead of Verstappen, but a necessary response to a vibration on Bottas’ car.

Even so, as he’d been following just over two-and-a-half seconds behind Verstappen, it was inevitably going to provoke a response from Red Bull. Sure enough, they brought their leading driver in, yet surprisingly Mercedes left Hamilton out.

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An unexpected ‘undercut’

Red Bull made them pay for that oversight. Though Verstappen had been 3.1 seconds behind Hamilton before pitting, even though Hamilton gave away little when he pulled in the next time around, a rapid out-lap by Verstappen helped put him into the lead. Mercedes had been handed a shot at victory and squandered it.

To the surprise of both drivers, Verstappen ‘undercut’ Hamilton
Even Verstappen was surprised by this development. “My out-lap was good but I didn’t expect the undercut to be so big,” he said. “But when I went out I suddenly had so much more grip on the tyres everywhere.

“I don’t know how fast Lewis’s stop was or whatever, so I need to look at it again, but I think nobody – including us – we never expected to undercut Lewis.”

The benefit of his new tyres wore off quickly, however. “With new tyres you have one lap where of course everything feels a lot better. [But] as soon as I was ahead the next two laps, they didn’t feel so great anymore.”

Could Hamilton wrest his lead back on the track? Over the laps which followed he pressed Verstappen hard. But Red Bull had fitted a fresh engine and slimmer rear wings to their cars, making it one of the quickest on the straights, while Hamilton was at the bottom of the speed trap.

“The new Honda engine will have some more horsepower, I guess,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had observed the day before. “It’s pretty normal if you put the new engine into the pool.

“On the other side they run a much less draggy rear wing than us, which in absolute lap time is good for them.” That set-up wasn’t an option for Mercedes, he said. “For us it wouldn’t have functioned because even with their lesser downforce, rear wing, they were still able to do the sector times in sector three through the corners that we had.”

So much was Red Bull’s straight-line speed advantage that even when Hamilton crossed the starting line within half a second of his rival, he could not mount a serious attack.

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Two-stop switch

After eight laps of this, Verstappen began to draw clear. But now there was another concern for the strategists: Despite having switched to the hard tyres, the lap times were climbing again. Whether this was a consequence of the cooler track, the reduction in rubber on its surface, the higher tyre pressures enforced for this race, or a combination, it was tipping what was previously a nailed-on one-stop race into two-stop territory.

After second stop, Verstappen caught and passed Hamilton
Red Bull had been stung by Mercedes in this kind of strategic fight before, and weren’t about to be again. As lap 31 passed, both Mercedes drivers were clearly losing pace, and the team has obvious reasons to consider a second pit stop. The problem was that doing so would drop them behind Perez, who made his first pit stop later than the other three, and would obviously be much more obliging for Verstappen.

So on lap 32, after just 14 laps on hards, Red Bull surrendered the lead and put Verstappen on a set of medium compound tyres to cover the final 21 laps. Perez scampered out of the way when his team mate appeared in his mirrors on lap 34, losing 1.4 seconds to help his team mate progress.

The value of that sacrifice could be appreciated by the end of the race. After cruising past Bottas for second on lap 43 – the Mercedes driver aiding his progress by out-braking himself at the chicane – Verstappen arrived on Hamilton’s tail on the penultimate lap.

He might have found his rival less co-operative had it been the final tour, even given the enormous speed difference between the pair. But Hamilton recognised the futility of trying to delay a driver with much fresher tyres in a DRS zone. “He had the DRS open and if he didn’t pass me there, he would have passed me the straight afterwards,” he said.

Three laps earlier, Perez had relieved Bottas of the final place on the podium. He ran off the track while doing so, and Mercedes decided to gamble on leaving Bottas out in the hope his rival might get a time penalty. That would have handed them three points extra instead of the one they passed up by declining to put Bottas on a fresh set of tyres to set the fastest lap. Perez was cleared, however, and Verstappen added the bonus point to complete a maximum haul of 26.

McLaren profit on tough day for Ferrari

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2021
Leclerc made an extra pit stop and finished 16th
The driver who held fifth at the end of lap one – Sainz – fell out of the points places five laps from home. His team mate Charles Leclerc, who started lap two in seventh place, had plummeted to 16th after a second pit stop. It was an abject race for Ferrari, who apparently struggled more than any of their rivals to cope with the overnight change in conditions.

Ferrari’s struggles left a wide open goal for McLaren and they seized their opportunity, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo taking the next two places after the top two teams. That 18-point haul swung the battle for third place in the constructors’ championship back in their favour.

Norris extended his points-scoring run with fifth place in a race which began unpromisingly. A gear shift glitch cost him two place at the start, and there was some grumbling on the radio about the manner in which Ricciardo got ahead of him.

But it soon became clear the MCL35M was much happier on its tyres than the SF21. “I think we were good in the first stint,” said Norris. “Everyone was so slow – I think the Ferraris were very slow and they were holding up the AlphaTauri and the Alpines. Then everyone just really destroyed their tyres.”

While Ricciardo ahead pitted early to trouble the Ferraris – jumping Sainz and soon passing Leclerc – Norris ran long on his first set of tyres. “Although it felt really terrible at the end of the first stint, I still didn’t come out that far behind all of those cars on some fresh tyres.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Paul Ricard, 2021
McLaren capitalised on Ferrari’s joyless day
Norris could also afford to treat his tyres better in the initial warm-up phase. “I could bring them in nicely and so on. I created a big delta on the tyres to quite easily come back through. So it was a good, fun race for me.”

He worked his way past both Ferraris and Pierre Gasly – the latter giving him quite a hard time as he did – and finally Ricciardo for fifth. Behind Ricciardo and Gasly came Fernando Alonso and the two Aston Martin drivers, who ran long opening stints to help secure the final points-paying positions.

Behind Sainz was George Russell, a lap down and somewhat bemused at how he’d managed to beat an Alpine, an AlphaTauri and a Ferrari yet not score any points.

Red Bull set for happy homecoming

Red Bull extended their championship advantages
After Verstappen took pole position on Saturday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner commented that if they could beat Mercedes at Paul Ricard, they could beat them anywhere.

This was the third win in a row for Red Bull, and had it not been for Verstappen’s left-rear tyre blow-out in Baku, it would have been three on the trot for him as well. As it is, he has extended his championship lead to 12 points.

But more significant than that is what winning at a track like Paul Ricard means for Red Bull. As Horner indicated, victory on a road circuit which is typical of many tracks which make up the coming rounds – beginning with an effective trio of home races for Red Bull – is the strongest indication yet that Verstappen is ready to end Hamilton’s reign as champion.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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126 comments on “How Verstappen rescued a victory he’d thrown away”

  1. The Mercedes strategy was a bit of an own goal, but usually 3 seconds is enough to prevent an undercut, so they thought they could cover Verstappen. Why they didn’t pit Hamilton a lap earlier? It seems they didn’t like the prospect of Verstappen not pitting and get lucky with a safety car.

    1. @f1infigures well, basically that: they were probably convinced they had enough in hand to pit a lap after Verstappen did. And if you are convinced of that, it is preferable to do just that. It makes sure you remain in charge of strategic options.

      The thing, though, is that Merc had two big clues Verstappen would not extend his first stint even if Hamilton came in. First clue was Bottas flying on his out lap – which means Max needed to pit or he would have lost track position to Bottas. Second clue was RBR team radio (albeit that came late so I don’t know if they had time to act on that): they gave Max an unconditional box call. Usually when they would want to do something other than Lewis doing they’d say “box opposite Lewis”.
      Never easy, of course. But they probably missed a trick there. And given how fine the margin at the end was, that (maybe together with Bottas outbraking himself, easily allowing Verstappen through) could’ve swung the end result in Hamilton’s favor.

    2. There’s an elephant in the room being overlooked, while Lewis stop time was 0.1 shorter than Max’, the latter still won 0.6 sec just by driving in and out the pitlane more efficient…despite the enforced maximum speed in the pitlane.
      Those resulting 0.5 sec would have put Lewis ahead of Verstappen….

      Max was closer to the very limits of the car

  2. Mostly what happened here was Max being faster. Mercedes strategy now looks poor, but outcome could be spotted by us from armchair.

    Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen complained about tires with 30 laps to go. RBR forced their hand.

    1. @jureo still, it was pretty close in the end. Lewis being brought in for his stop the same lap as Max, and/or Bottas not jumping out of Max’s way by outbraking himself, could’ve swung it in Lewis’s favor even on a onestopper.

  3. Despite having the best car Lewis didnt win. Mercedes firstly ran away from RB. Then when RB jumped them at the pit stop the Mercedesses (Bottas as well!) could easily keep up with Verstappen. Max is clearly developing into a much better skilled driver than Lewis. Great to see. Bring on the era of Leclerc, Max and George please. I think we’ve seen enough of the the same old. Thanks for Max, otherwise we would be seeing Mercedes win all again for yet another season.

    1. Davethechicken
      21st June 2021, 15:27

      I disagree.
      I think the RBR is comfortably the fastest car. It has been since preseason testing.
      Many on here seem to want a psychological cushion in case their great hero doesn’t prevail!!

      1. Red bull is only fastest in qualifying, I have yet to see a race except ofc monaco and baku where red bull has a race pace advantage, I think at best you can say they were there in the first race, bahrain, not on the others.

        1. @esploratore1 Spot on! The narrative that RB is now faster on classic tracks in race trim baffles me. But they are getting close for sure!

      2. It would seem you’re proof of that

    2. Indeed, seemed pretty obvious mercedes was faster when tyres were the same, and it’s also obvious since their car is no longer dominant that when a driver has much fresher tyres he will be the fastest even without the normally fastest car.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        21st June 2021, 19:50

        @esploratore1 @j-l A more nuanced opinion is needed The Redbull and Mercedes cars are both faster and slower than each other on certain sections of each course. Hamilton stated the time loss on the straight to Redbull was 0.3 seconds. He could hassle Max for most of the lap but couldn’t get near on the straights even with DRS. You take away DRS the Redbull gradually left the Merc behind as we saw when Lewis dropped out of it before Max’s second stop. Instant 3 second gap. The reverse was true when Max was following Lewis. Drop out of DRS and 3 second gap. Those two cars are evenly matched on pace just with strengths in different parts of the track and it will depend on the track as to which is faster on the day.

        1. @davewillisporter Fair comment, we are talking about small margins here. It was actually quite interesting how the different setups played out in the race. It’s probably right to say that the low downforce setup helped Max to fend off Lewis on the straights. But Lewis was able to attack Max far more effectively than vice versa. Toto himself said that the Merc was slightly faster after the race. The sad reality of today’s cars is that you can’t attack infinitely, the car starts overheating, Lewis was forced to drop off. And he did actually fell out of DRS range and got back at least once.

  4. Highlighting the errors of Verstappen in this and previous races after a win. Let me guess if that will be the angle next time Hamilton wins..

    1. I thought the same thing. The title of this article is also a bit besides the trued. Victory he thrown away???? Stretching the story of this race.

      1. He *literally* slithered off the track at turn one… 🙄

        1. Turn 2 actually?

        2. These are Max fans, Lap 1 Turn 1 never happened.

    2. It’s a very Hamilton centric forum. So expect thus narrative again.

      1. Davethechicken
        21st June 2021, 15:29

        Erijke, clearly you are trying to change that singlehandedly.
        Usually you launch into personal insults at this point so waiting for it!

        1. You are often confused when confronted with facts. I get it this is a Hamilton fan forum for some. But accept other views and your life will be easier.

          1. Davethechicken
            21st June 2021, 16:46

            And there it is. You can’t resist a chance to insult can you? 🤣

          2. @davethechicken, facts are facts. Only you see an insult there.

          3. Davethechicken
            21st June 2021, 22:09

            Your “facts” are narrow minded opinions, you mistake me not agreeing with them as being confused. You insult saying others are “small” *or “hormonal” to use your words. Why are you obsessed with my posts and Max?

    3. Yes, it’s pretty unbelievable for a site that is supposedly impartial. Might as well be

    4. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      21st June 2021, 12:02

      Racefans is a great forum sadly it is covered in a heavy sauce of Hamilton favoritism.
      Keith has a long history of amnesia when it comes to Hamilton’s faults and errors often refusing to call them out or consider them sufficient to rate Hamilton a struggler.

      Also in this article Keith puts all the focus on a minor error from Max at the start allowing Lewis to pass yet there is no mentioning of Lewis poor in lap compared to Max and even worse no mentioning of Lewis major off running over the curbs costing him 0.5-1.0 second which could have been the time needed for Lewis to win.

      1. So Max giving away the lead of a race by going off is a minor error, and Ham running wide on tyres down to the band is a major off. Right, got that. Glad to see the impartial posters keeping it real.

        1. It is a minor error to have the back-end step out a bit on coldish tyres on the first lap. Bouncing the car over the kerbs mid race is a slightly more serious error that didn’t cost Hamilton much but it might have…

        2. petebaldwin (@)
          21st June 2021, 13:06

          Bit rich to be complaining about posters being impartial isn’t it!? There are impartial posters on here, there are Max fans who are heavily biased towards him and then there are Lewis fan like yourself who are heavily biased towards him.

          1. Yes it is a bit rich biased posters calling out others; including those who write the articles, on impartiality. That was entirely my point.

    5. As others pointed out, there seems to be a fairly heavy pro-Lewis bias on this site, especially in the articles from Keith. I don’t know if it’s the same for other British media, but I don’t get the same impression from Sky or The Race. But to be fair I would expect a similar bias to be present in Dutch media. It is what it is.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        21st June 2021, 14:53

        The Race rated Lewis a 9 and Max a 8.5 because of that minor error Max had on lap 1.
        The Race seemingly also ignored that Lewis had a bigger off than Max mid race and also that Max had a better in lap and out lap around 1st pitstop than Hamilton did.

        1. I noticed, I think they’re a bit pro-hamilton on the race, but not as much, example when here he wasn’t rated a struggler in monaco they gave him a 4,5 on that site, so they seem more fair.

          Here I can sort of understand a 0,5 difference, but I think they probably should’ve got the same mark.

    6. Interesting title for a race where overtaking was easy. By the way, Hamilton also made an error and left the track once.

      1. It’s so easy to get everybody going… :-)

    7. F1oSaurus (@)
      21st June 2021, 17:30

      @balue The article is spot on though. The problem is with the Verstappen hooligans like you that don’t want to admit that Verstappen should have won most, if not almost all, races this season.

      Plus that Verstappen came extremely close to throwing away another win again.

      1. @f1osaurus You are getting more and more unhinged. If anyone is a hooligan here it’s you as this personal attack well proves.

        As for errors, Hamilton has single-handedly thrown away around 40 points, and there are several other errors to add to that. That’s a massive tally in anyone’s book. Do RaceFans drag those errors up at every opportunity? Never. Especially not in a victory article. They are hidden away as much as possible. Just like you do.

        1. Its already special he found his way after this race.
          In his dimension things like this do not exist.

  5. Ps; bit of a sour headline for a grown up man. I think we’ve seen a exciting race with tactics and greats battling eachother and this is the best you can come up with?

    1. A better headline would’ve been ‘How a win slipped away from Mercedes ’ or ‘How Red Bull outfoxed Mercedes’ imo

  6. The Mercedes strategy was a bit of a head-scratcher, but as @mattds says, Mercedes were probably confident they could pit a lap later an maintain position – the undercut was much stronger than anticipated. When you consider that, it makes much more sense.

    The slim wing on that RBR worked well to protect against DRS attacks, after watching quali I expected the Mercedes race pace to be very strong. It was, but the RBR isn’t just a quali-lap wonder, it has great race pace too. Hopefully we’ll have more thrilling hunts for victory in the season.

    The biggest surprise for me was how poor Ferrari were, absolutely shocking race for them. I hope Binotto realises how much of a negative impact his team had on my Fantasy F1 points!!! (“Kiss my sweet Haas”)

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      21st June 2021, 17:33

      @geekzilla9000 Verstappen is quoted in the article that they didn’t expect the undercut to work. Plus Wolff said it after the race and apologized for that mistake.

      1. The undercut worked as a result of a fantastic outlap by max and a very mediocre pit entry by Lewis.
        So he/they messed up big time.

  7. The more I think about it, I don’t understand Red Bull’s motivation for Max’s 2nd pit stop.

    Mercedes were already falling behind Max. There was very little chance of them trying a 2 stop as Perez was in the play and having quite fresher tyres.
    Max already had track position.
    He would have to overtake 2 Mercedes in the closing laps.

    I just checked the detailed timing data. Lewis was 2.2 seconds behind Max just before Max’s 2nd pit stop. And he was 2.9 seconds behind Max at the flag. So, the 2 stopper was faster by only 0.7 seconds and still Red Bull went for it.

    The only justification for that I feel is that Red Bull feared a repeat of Baku tyre failure later on in the race.

    1. Well, thats the thing. Mercedes was not falling behind Verstappen. In fact Max knew he was a sitting duck and it would be a matter if time before both Lewis and Bottas would overtake him. Did you see how easily in dirty air both Lewis and Bottas could follow Max? RB had no choice given the race pace of the Mercedes, which is clearly the dominant car but just hasnt got the strongest driver of the field anymore.

    2. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      21st June 2021, 9:25

      You cannot say the difference between the 2 strategies was only 0.7 seconds as a lot of factors may have affected the times in the end. Had Bottas managed to keep Max at bay for a couple of laps longer, the 2 stop might have seemed like a dumb idea and we’d be singing praises for Mercedes and their 1 stop masterstroke.

      1. Indeed. The 2 stop seemed a dumb idea for a long time. Max didn’t catch Lewis until the last 2 laps. That is too close for comfort. In the part when Lewis switched to a 2 stopper (Budapest 2019, Barcelona 2021), he caught Max with 4 and 6 laps to go and he was 2nd behind Max in both the cases. Lewis’s 2nd stop in Budapest never seemed dumb as he did not lose track position. His 2nd stop in Barcelona was ok from Mercedes stand point as he lost position to only his teammate.

        Yesterday’s 2nd stop by Max was a net points loss for Red Bull until 2 laps to go.

        Don’t think this qualifies as an ‘inspired’ or ‘genius’ strategy.

        1. Its a 100% Hungary strategy which also worked with very few laps to go for HAM at that time so how can that not be intentional?

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            21st June 2021, 17:34

            Just read his comment.

        2. How was it not an inspired strategy? They were P1 and gave up track position, and both team and driver made it work to perfection. They went for the other strategy with Sergio and that one played out perfectly as well.
          Flawlessly executed from team and drivers (aside from the blip that was Max’s off).

          Ironically, Max going off and dropping him to P2 probably allowed them the undercut as I think Mercedes would’ve pitted Lewis first if Max had held on to P1 at the start. That means Lewis starts his second stint P1 instead of P2, possibly leaving Max with not enough time to make the twostopper work.
          How about that. :)

          1. How was it not an inspired strategy?

            its only an inspired strategy when used by Mercedes/Lewis.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            21st June 2021, 17:38

            @mattds The fact that Perez easily finished P3 shows that that extra stop was not needed at all. Verstappen would have easily finished in P1 without all that risk. So yeah, how is taking a huge risk to end up where you were already an “inspired” strategy?

            He almost Bahrain 2021-ed it again.

          3. @f1osaurus
            But Verstappen and Perez were effectively on different strategies. Perez ran longer in stint 1 for a more ‘ideal’ one-stopper.
            So I’m not sure what argument you’re trying to make, you can’t directly state Perez’s pace at the end and assume that Max’s would have been the same on older tyres.

          4. @f1osaurus aside from Neutralino’s excellent point, the Red Bull is still suspected to be somewhat harder on the tyres. Given Bottas’ tyres were effectively gone and Lewis’ almost, chances are very real Lewis would’ve had a shot at Max late in the race.
            But you can argue until you’re blue in the face – they had P1, they willingly and knowingly gave that up, and they came through to win it. That speaks for itself.

    3. RBR feared Mercedes would do the same – pit and come after Max on new tyres.
      Also, the RB16B seems to have higher tyre deg than the W12 so not pitting might have bitten them at the end.

      Basically they did their own strategy based on what they thought would get them to the finish the fastest. They were spot on.

    4. I was thinking about the necessity of the second pitstop as well. It did look risky at the time especially as the Mercedes appeared to be falling behind. If Bottas had managed to stay ahead of Verstappen for one or two more laps it wouldn’t have worked too…
      But we have to remember what happened in the past. Having the Budapest/Spain scenario in mind RedBull decided this time they to call the shots instead of reacting.
      We’ll never know what would have happened if they had stayed out (I still somehow think like you that they had the pace to just cruise into the distance) but in the end you can conclude: They stayed out twice and lost both races, they pitted once and won.

      1. They stayed out twice and lost both races, they pitted once and won

        True, that is one way of looking at it. And i suspect Red Bull is more likely to think that way.

        Had Max failed to overtake Lewis, this race would have been remembered as the one everyone tried to lose.
        1) Max throws away lead in turn 1 with an unforced error
        2) Lewis throws away lead with an inexplicable delayed pitstop
        3) Max throws away lead with an inexplicable 2nd stop.

        1. Well put. But I’m reminded of the adage that the victor writes the history books, and even bystanders tend to assume that winning has more brilliance than fortune in it. Now we say that RBR was brilliant. If Hamilton held on it would have been hailed as one of his greatest wins ever and the 1 stop being genius. We got to study this sort of quantum strategic “superposition” during the race after Max stopped again for a while before seeing the resolution— to open the box and see if the cat broke the vial. But we can agree we saw a great race.

    5. Overall I agree with this, I thought it was a dumb move all the way to go on a 2-stop, I understand when mercedes was very close to him, but they had dropped off because all 3 lead drivers had said tyres would not make it to the end, even when verstappen passed hamilton it wasn’t a better situation than before!

      1. @esploratore1 well, welcome to F1 in 2021, when a bold and winning strategy is being called “dumb”. Just think about that for a second. Oh and imagine Mercedes having done the same as Spain, I could see the likes of you calling RBR dumb for falling for it again.

    6. the reason for RBR to do it was to prevent Mercedes from doing it (like in Hungary 2019 or Spain this season). Once someone goes for the switch, there no answer anymore, you just need to stick with it and see if you can make it on those tires to the end. So it’s a question of who pulls the trigger faster.

      What I don’t understand was why didn’t Merc switch Bottas to a 2 stop since he really asked for it a few laps before Max did it…

  8. One thing worth noting was at the first round of pit stops Bottas was closer to Verstappen (2.7s) than Verstappen was to Hamilton (3.1s) and despite closing a lot of ground wasn’t all that close to undercutting Max. Seeing his sector times come in may have been part of the reason Mercedes felt confident keeping Lewis out for another lap not accounting for the better tyre warm up on the Red Bull, which seems to also account for their relative performance in qualifying.

    1. This! I think a lot of the Merc strategy criticism is a bit unfair.

    2. Good point, but when Hamilton came out, he had no warm up issues—he was on Verstappen like a cheap suit. And but for Verstappen’s end of straight speed he would have easily gone by. That was interesting to me, especially since Hamilton could not drop Verstappen on the soft tires. I can add to the hindsight project going here to say, as others have noted, that if Mercedes had avoided the undercut they may have just run away from Verstappen enough to quash the two stop for Verstappen. But then again, I think they would have just tried to “control” the pace instead, and kept that option open for Verstappen. I think RBR were always looking to play to their advantage of fast warm up and straight line speed to pass/defend. MB seemed to just be counting on Hamilton to either make a necessary pass or eke out the tires by force of will.

  9. Really loved how Perez said “Let’s get them” when letting him by. Team orders at its peak.

    1. That’s cool. I missed that one.

    2. Yes, we like team orders now.

    3. If it was Perez saying that, it sounds more like team spirit than team orders.

      1. Isn’t that a Nirvana song?

        1. Sure smells like one.

      2. I suppose one could call that team orders if one wanted, but really it was a no-brainer given their two different strategies. For me a team order hints of the driver being ordered being also disgruntled at having to be ordered, or at least at having put himself in the position of being ordered. In this case yes it seems to me far more a case of team spirit rather than team order. It was rare and wonderful to hear such a radio comm.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          21st June 2021, 17:40

          @robbie Yeah figures that now it’s a “no brainer”, but when Hamilton was chasing Verstappen it made perfect sens that Bottas was holding him up.

          You are such a clueless hypocrite.

          1. @f1osaurus
            No need for the personal attacks. Have some grace and civility please.

    4. I think Perez isn’t getting his due here. The two stop was not an option for Hamilton because Perez was too close and too fast.

      I used to think Bottas was the best wingman in F1. It is clear now Perez is better because of his skill with the tires. His tire delta made him a formidable obstacle.

      A positive attitude would be beneficial too. It gives the team confidence in him so they can focus of the best strategy without worrying about egos.

      It isn’t surprising if Perez is well adjusted to his new role. It was clear he was a #2 at Racing Point, even if he was the better driver. It was always clear Red Bull were hiring a wingman. So he should know his role. Doing it well could make him the deciding factor in the championship.

      1. I actually think Perez is happy with his wingman role unlike Bottas who seems to think he should be given the same treatment as Lewis. Two factors – With Perez he had no drive for this year so to get a drive with RB is an amazing outcome which he’ll be over the moon about. I also think Perez is happy to play the wingman most the time and get the odd race win here and there which he most likely wouldn’t get at any other team (except Mercedes). Its difficult to take being a wingman as you have to accept that you’re not as good as your team-mate. However, if you can accept that fact it can be a pretty good career.

        1. @alex

          It’s also Perez’ first season and we’ve seen from other drivers how hard it is to adapt to the car. If Perez manages to gradually increase his qualifying and pace during the season and helps Max as much as he can, I think that he maximizes his chances for a new contract. If he gets closer to Verstappen, he can start thinking about being more selfish.

        2. You again? You didn’t expect me here?

        3. I actuALlY tHiNk perez Is haPpY WITh His WingmaN rOLe unliKE BOtTaS whO sEEMs TO ThiNk HE shouLd Be GivEN The sAME TREaTmENt aS LeWis. Two FACTORS – WITh Perez hE haD No drIVE FOr THIS YeaR sO tO GEt A DrIve With RB IS An AMAzinG OUtCOmE wHiCh he’ll BE oVER The moOn ABouT. i alsO thINk PeREz is haPPY to pLaY THE WINGman moSt THe tIMe and GeT thE oDD race WIn heRe AnD ThEre WhICh hE MOST liKeLy woUlDN’t geT AT any OtHeR tEam (ExcepT MeRCedES). its diFFICUlt To taKe beING a WiNgMAN AS YOu Have tO acCEpT ThAT YoU’RE Not AS GooD aS your TEam-mAte. hOweVer, IF You can AcCEpt THaT fAcT it CAN Be a PreTTY goOD CAreEr.

          Don’t hide now!

      2. @slotopen alex Yeah good and fair comments. But it will be interesting to watch SP in the future too. I factor in a few things that I would add to your comments. Firstly, SP has never had this level of car, and now that he has he is already showing better stuff than he’s been able to in the past. Secondly, he was always going to be on his hind foot this season as the newbie needing to catch up to the car and team and they to him. A thirdly, he’s no Max, especially not a Max engrained on the team.

        So I do feel a tad uncomfortable on SP’s behalf with you two tagging him as wingman, almost likes that is worded in his contract lol, although I’m sure that is what SP is this year, and he’d be willing to admit that. However, I also would like to think there is a racer in him that plans on beating Max and LH in the future if at all possible, and will only accept ‘wingman’ this year when he was always going to be losing points to Max for the first number of races as the newbie, and therefore was always going to have to cede points to Max this season, for the WDC fight was never going to be SP’s.

        I’m not saying SP is a Max or LH level driver, but I am fascinated to see him next year and what his attitude and abilities will bring when he is no longer the newbie and should be starting off next season on a far more equal footing to that of Max, in cars that are going to be able to race more closely and which should change so much about how they’re going to race these cars and strategize with them.

        After all, VB as the natural wingman as it turns out, by the very evidence that he has never mounted any threat to LH, even in the clear dominant WCC car, still starts off each season with high hopes of beating LH, as obviously with the same equipment as him with which to do it. No reason SP won’t start off next season with the same mindset, so I really doubt he will be considering himself wingman next year until things shake out after some races. What bodes well for him is he’ll no longer be the newbie next year, but methinks in a more driver vs driver grid of cars that can race closely, Max might truly excel even moreso. But then, all drivers should be less inhibited by dirty air, so it is truly going to be fascinating.

        1. Yes, I think he can be at least a ricciardo-level driver at red bull, some of us hinted at this before he joined and I think he’s showing that.

      3. Even marko gave him credit for max’s win. The fact Perez stayed out for so long made the possible scenarios for mercedes very limited.

    5. I liked also that perez’s engineer told him, when he let verstappen past: “the race is on!”, as in that not only would verstappen try to get back the win with a 2 stopper but that perez could end up catching bottas with the 1-stopper, and eventually managed to do that before verstappen caught hamilton.

      1. @esploratore1 For sure, and RBR of course want/need the WCC points as well. And look at the haul he managed at the last race. SP is golden already at RBR after the 5 races he said he’d need to acclimatize. And I think there should be more to come from him as he should only get more comfortable under more and different circumstances with the car.

  10. It’s a matter of time before Toto shifts the blame fully on Bottas. Surprised it takes him this long already :-)

    1. I actually liked that when reporters asked wolff about bottas’ outburst about them not listening to his 2 stop strategy, he said he likes an angry bottas!

      1. He’ll have plenty of that in the near future by the way this season is going!

  11. Quick comment from me on the headline of this article, I can see how it might seem a bit negative towards Max, but I don’t think it is.

    Max made a mistake at the start of the race and handed the lead to his championship rival. Although there was practically a full race to go, I also thought it might be game over. But Max then drove flawlessly and his team took a risk which looks like it was a blinder of a move – but only because Max drove perfectly. Strategy gave Max an opportunity to win but it was Max himself that made it work. Max was superb this race and I don’t feel the headline takes away from that.

    Lewis showed his skill too, he didn’t win obviously, but he got the absolute most out of those tyres and had strategy been different, he could have won. Had that happened, Max’s jaunt off the track would likely have been the key moment that cost him the race. Both drivers are looking mighty.

    1. @geekzilla9000 Well said. I try not to get too bent out of shape on headlines for there is an art to the headline as a headline needs to be provocative, and one must always read the article to get the full context. The art of the headline is to get the reader to read the article. Sure Max made a mistake, but the article spells out well why it was tricky for all the drivers on the freshly rained on track etc etc.

      The thing is, sometimes in F1 losing the lead at the very start means game over, such has been the nature of these cars and of some tracks. We’ve seen it happen. And the stats are pretty high that the pole sitter nowhere nearly always wins the race. A few times Max has bested LH at the start but not gone on to win too, so yeah, we have to read the whole story, not just the headline.

    2. @geekzilla9000 I agree, this particular headline is not that bad, but I think a lot of people (myself included) feel that Keith unfortunately has a long track record of favoring Lewis and dissing Max. I would take that into account when looking at the comments.

      And completely agree, masterclass from both drivers yesterday, joy to watch!

    3. Both drivers are looking mighty.

      This. Why is it so hard for the likes of balue, erikje, Mayrton, Kingshark to acknowledge this?

  12. Failing to pit Hamilton the lap after Bottas was the big mistake. Unless Mercedes are working to a cunning plan, they do tend to be slow to react to situations. Worrying about a SC at Paul Ricard doesn’t make a lot of sense and Max was never going to do a Perez and take the tyres much longer. But the crux after that is Perez. Without Red Bull’s second quickest (or first slowest) driver so close to the frontrunners, Mercedes would have easily beaten Verstappen on strategy as we saw in so many previous races. This time they felt they couldn’t pit a second time because they’d have to pass Perez in a car quicker on the straight. I think that’s the strategy decision they’ll have to reassess now. Maybe pitting Bottas or Hamilton before Verstappen carried the ‘risk’ of Bottas winning the race or Hamilton losing to Bottas, something Mercedes are loathe to do (end up with the slower driver beating the faster one on strategy), so they did neither. But potentially one of them could have won the race and in the end there was no reason not to pit Bottas given where he ended up in fourth. If they expected him to slow down Verstappen, they might want to replay his comments to his engineer where he basically anticipated that he wouldn’t be ‘able’ to do anything – i.e. he’s not going to sacrifice his own tyres and race position to help Hamilton this season (which suggests he’s past caring and/or knows he’s on the way out).

    In the end it wasn’t such a bad result given Red Bull had a car quicker on one lap and on the straights. But Horner was right that the Mercedes higher downforce in the windy conditions meant that Hamilton could have broken clear on hard tyres had he been in front after the first stop.

    1. I actually thought the same regarding Bottas. He put in minimal effort into keeping Max behind. If thats the attitude he’s taking I think Mercedes really need to think about getting George in that second Mercedes asap especially as its now apparent Perez is willing to heavily assist Max. I’ve always liked Bottas but its just not working anymore and it seems like its getting toxic.

      1. During the race Bottas was outspokenly angry on the radio about the failure to implement the 2-stop. He’s shown a few flashes of anger this season. I actually think Mercedes would get more out of him now letting him do his thing – let him try a 2-stop for example and forget about assisting Hamilton (or not as the case may be). Mercedes being a bit more unpredictable won’t harm them.

        1. @david-br In a way I get what you are saying, for what do they have to lose doing what you are saying, however, at this point they cannot afford for VB to rob points from LH, so…same old same old from VB I’m afraid. I think it is too little too late for VB to be asserting himself now, sitting 5th in the WDC, although yeah they do need to help him assert himself into the situation to try to help LH where possible, especially with what SP is starting to do.

          VB needed to show these flashes of anger years ago and at the very beginnings of seasons…ie. take the gloves off as TW himself said upon the numerous time folks talked about how lovey dovey it was post-Nico on the team, and how if VB was to compete against LH the lovey dovey would have to end anyway. Remember TW had signed Nico for two more years of the ‘gloves off’ LH/NR rivalry well before there was any hint of Nico retiring.

          At this point, even if VB is angry enough to start asserting himself and winning, they can’t let him, unless LH is out of it and they need to take those points from Max. Any time LH is in with a shout, they have to engineer VB to finish behind him, but VB has been naturally used to that all along really.

          So…’a bit more unpredictable won’t harm them’…? I think maybe the opposite, or at least if the unpredictable gets VB higher up in races, he’ll have to be predictably ordered to cede to LH before the checkered flag.

          1. @robbie But if Bottas had emerged as the winner, he’d still have effectively reduced the points deficit between Verstappen and Hamilton. Maybe unlikely but Bottas was ‘on’ during the race, so I feel that Mercedes letting him do what he thinks will work might help them, overall, in the WDC and WCC, more so than pulling him back and stifling any enthusiasm he might have to compete. Plus the unpredictability may help unsettle Red Bull and keep them guessing more over strategy.

          2. @david-br True but why I said if LH is in with a shout is that that would mean they’d have to put VB behind him to maximize LH’s points. I’m assuming VB is not beating Max anytime soon, and usually doesn’t beat LH either, so as along as LH is in for some good points no matter what Max is doing, LH must be placed ahead of VB. Sure if LH is for some reason way out of it then yeah it makes lots of sense for them to try to help VB win and rob points from Max to help LH that way.

            As to stifling enthusiasm yeah I get that but surely even VB already knows it’s no longer his place to take points away from LH anyway. He needed to assert himself in the Championship from race one in order to stand any chance alongside Max and LH. Some bad luck and some bad performances and he lies 5th in the WDC and will never now be able to place himself as a contender while they have to favour LH.

      2. I disagree with this, that bottas let verstappen past fast, he was never gonna keep him behind for long with that tyres, he’s not hamilton, and not even hamilton managed to last a lot, from what I saw he tried to defend for a couple of turns, and he locked up before verstappen attacked him, that’s not purposeful.

      3. Didn’t expect you to show your face again.

      4. I actUAlLy ThoUGHT THe SaMe regARdIng BottAS. he Put In minIMal EfFoRt inTO KEEpiNG mAx bEHInD. iF THaTS the aTtitUDE HE’s TakiNG i thiNK MERcEdeS Really nEED tO tHInk ABoUT geTTiNg GeOrgE iN ThaT SEcOnd mERCeDES ASAP ESPeCIalLY aS iTs noW appaRenT PERez Is wILLinG TO heaVIly AssiSt Max. i’vE ALwaYs likEd BoTTAS buT ITs jUst NOt workinG ANyMore anD It SeEMS lIKe ITS gETting tOxic.

        Had enough?

    2. True about paul ricard, when verstappen pitted I was also worried about SC but like my father said, with this much runoff area it’s really unlikely, only if 2 cars pretty much crash and stop next to the track, and even then verstappen was catching up at a rate of 2 sec per lap soon after pitting, and at 25 sec lost per normal pit stop, I’m guessing probably 15 with SC or VSC, meaning he was soon outside the SC window again.

      1. VER made a 29,6 pit and Lewis a 30,4. Even with a faster pitstop (about 0,3 sec) lewis lost there.
        But a good pitstop cost in total about 30 sec.

    3. Good to notice we agree there ;)
      This race was Mercedes to win after the first lap. They sacrificed Bottas and took a possible win from him.
      Being a wingman at mercedes is a tough job

    4. F1oSaurus (@)
      21st June 2021, 17:43


      Failing to pit Hamilton the lap after Bottas was the big mistake

      With perfect hindsight sure

      In reality, Verstappen was closer to getting undercut by Bottas than Hamilton was by Verstappen.

      So Mercedes got something wrong in their calculations in thinking that Hamilton would be safe from the undercut and they apologized for that. Still, they “knew” they were safe and acted as such.

      In hindsight they should have left Hamilton out longer and gone for another Bahrain result. If Hamilton had stopped a few laps later, he would have been able to defend against Verstappen at the end and maybe kept him at bay again.

      1. @f1osaurus looking at the tactics i thought they asked you.

      2. @f1osaurus there was no hindsight needed to see Bottas was having a good out lap and a second lap would have seen Bottas undercut Verstappen. So evidently Verstappen was coming in on that lap, and just covering Verstappen by also pitting that lap would’ve kept Hamilton in P1. There was no gain in keeping him out one extra lap, so why even risk it.

        Sure, keeping him out a lot longer might have been viable. That’s for their strategists to look at. But the way they did it it was neither here nor there. If they pitted him in that timeframe it should’ve been the lap after Bottas, simple as that, no hindsight needed.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          22nd June 2021, 9:46

          @mattds Yes so they simply covered off the undercut. How is that “inspired”?

          It’s not about that stop though, it’s about the second one.

          1. @f1osaurus what do you mean it’s not about that stop?

            Failing to pit Hamilton the lap after Bottas was the big mistake

            This was what you were reacting to to say that only in hindsight it was such. So it definitely was about that stop? The “inspired” strategy is up above in another discussion thread.
            And my response to this was that you don’t need hindsight to judge the timing of the first stop, as there was no advantage in waiting two laps instead of one lap after Bottas had come in. Always the wrong decision even at the time.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            22nd June 2021, 20:50

            @mattds Yes I meant the “inspired” nonsense stop. The first stop was just lucky that the undercut worked more than anyone anticipated

            So yes only in hindsight it was a good call

            They called in Bottas because he flat spotted his tyres. He had to stop. Hamilton was supposed to go much longer. Hamilton stopping right after would have given Verstappen track position and the win.

  13. Bit of a dramatic headline. Thrown away? He had a poor start and was closely following in P2!

    I remember the days that F1Fanatic used to criticise the tabloid sensationalism of The Sun. How times change…

  14. HumanJoystick
    21st June 2021, 12:42

    Ah Keith cannot hide his disdain for Max yet again.
    Prediction, because of his adventure in turn 2 and since he couldn’t keep the hard tires alive like Lewis Max will be deemed a struggler and Lewis a star performer for ALMOST making it to the end.

    1. Not to this degree, but this could be interesting, it could easily be hamilton star and verstappen average in the ratings, with a little bias, I would put both in the star performers but a mistake such as verstappen’s normally costs a lot on here.

      1. It was not a mistake, it was a finger error.

    2. I’d love to see that rating hahaha

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      21st June 2021, 17:45

      Disdain how? Verstappen did throw the race away and only with amazing luck and a faster car did he win it back this time. Unlike, as the article explains a very similar scenario, happened in Bahrain.

      1. @f1osaurus
        “Amazing luck”, really? What was so lucky?

      2. only with amazing luck and a faster car

        Maybe its time to look at your statements about spain..
        Hahahahahahahahaha… LOL.

      3. We don’t trust you.

  15. I think both MB and RBR made risky or apparently unwise moves this race strategically. MB in failing to cover Verstappen in stint 1 and RBR in giving up the lead to fading opposition in stint 2. In the end though it was about a great duel between drivers trying to maximize different strategies who are clearly bringing exceptional ability to car. The way Hamilton stretched out the hard tires was amazing and Verstappen measuring out the mediums to catch Hamilton before losing all his pace was equally masterful.

    In the bigger picture, I think we have gone from saying, RBR squandered the possibly quickest car in the early races to saying, RBR’s performance from Bahrain on shows that Mercedes was always in serious straits this year. I think we were looking past the shocking number of laps in the lead by Red Bull, and even Mercedes’ collapse in Monaco and Baku, because it seemed so abnormal.

    1. Agreed about RBR’s unwise move.

      I think they made a relatively straight forward win into a more dramatic victory.

      But full marks to RBR for Checo’s strategy. He had no way of finishing in the top 3 without that.

      1. a more dramatic victory.

        Its Paul Ricard… without this you slept the entire race.

  16. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    21st June 2021, 20:12

    Lots of interesting takes. Let’s reach a consensus! The Redbull and Mercedes cars are a match for each other and so are Max and Lewis. The advantage and win comes down to small details. The second driver in each team is very much in a different class.

    1. as i see in spain and here in France, its always down to tire management… F1 should be called World tire championship.. every time its always about tire management.. not about racing…

  17. Bunch of hypocrites, that’s what we are! Making comments about this and that. Not so long ago Honda was the only obstacle to RBR being title contender. Now, when they did a quantum leap in performance none of us is giving credit to Honda which is in my opinion making the difference this year.

    1. I have given them credit under the stats and facts article, but as well it is never just one thing. It’s also Max, it’s also the team for adapting to the new regs and continuing to integrate the Honda pu to their chassis, it’s the pit crew, the strategists etc etc.

      Now that said I don’t entirely disagree with you and even though I always think it is a combination of the whole effort that goes in, I also opined a few times last year as to what they could do with an extra 20 or so hp, which would have allowed them a few more downforce options here and there and some straight line speed.

  18. in spain, MV had no answer to LH and the other way round in French GP..
    we never get to see the battles like before,, say like between CL/MV in british GP last year. or those between MH/MS..

    its always one car with superior tire, just breezing past another with worn out tires.. the pass on Bottas, LH, and last time by LH on SP,MV… all same.. just because of the tires.. there was no racing there..

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