Max Verstappen extended his Formula 1 championship lead and gave Red Bull its third successive win this season after passing Lewis Hamilton with two laps remaining to win the French Grand Prix.
Verstappen started on pole but slipped back to second after an unforced error at turn two saw him slide off the circuit, gifting the lead to Hamilton.
What ensued was a strategic battle. Every driver in the field nursed rapidly degrading tyres to the first sequence of pitstops.
Over the first stint, Hamilton’s lead had extended his lead to three seconds over Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas briefly pressured Verstappen in third, but the Mercedes’ pace still dried up, and he was quickly left circling on his own.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo were the first to make an early pitstop.
Their rapid pace on fresh rubber gave them a huge undercut on the midfield and also gave the leaders an indication of when they should look to make their first stop.
Red Bull blinked first, and Verstappen was whistled in for his stop before Hamilton.
By the time Hamilton reacted a lap later, Verstappen had re-claimed the race lead.
Soon discussions turned not towards whether Hamilton could catch and re-overtake Verstappen but if anyone would turn their one-stop strategy into a two-stop plan.
Red Bull and Verstappen felt a two-stop would work best, and he came in for his last change of tyres on lap 32 of 53.
Hamilton, Bottas and Sergio Perez all stayed out and became the race’s new top-three.
By not pitting before Red Bull, Mercedes fell into a trap where they were now compelled to play out the remainder of the race on a wearing set of tyres.
Perez gave Verstappen an easy pass on lap 35, and with ten laps in hand, he had reeled in Bottas.
Verstappen pursued the Mercedes down the back straight and pounced on a mistake to move into second.
Five seconds divided Hamilton and Verstappen over the last few laps.
With significantly newer tyres and lapped traffic holding up Hamilton, Verstappen caught the race leader and seized back the lead on the Mistral Straight on the penultimate tour.
“Once we made the first pit stop, then you could clearly see on the hard tyres [the Mercedes] were pushing me hard from behind,” Verstappen said.
“But once we made the call to do a two-stopper, luckily at the end, that paid off.
“We had to work hard for it, but of course, very rewarding.”
Hamilton limped home on his old set of boots to finish second, while Perez got past Bottas to round off the podium.
Lando Norris’ excellent start to the season continued with a fifth-place result, leading home his teammate Ricciardo in a McLaren 5-6.
Pierre Gasly gave the local crowd something to cheer for, crossing the line in seventh.
The rest of the points were taken by Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.
Ferrari battled high levels of tyre degradation and brought both its cars home scoreless in 11th and 16th.
|11||Carlos Sainz Jr||99.3|
|12||George Russell||1 Lap|
|13||Yuki Tsunoda||1 Lap|
|14||Esteban Ocon||1 Lap|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||1 Lap|
|16||Charles Leclerc||1 Lap|
|17||Kimi Raikkonen||1 Lap|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||1 Lap|
|19||Mick Schumacher||1 Lap|
|20||Nikita Mazepin||1 Lap|