Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton during the French Formula One Grand Prix. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton during the French Formula One Grand Prix. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

A Red Bull masterclass: Five highlights from an epic French GP

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Jun 21, 2021

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If it didn't happen, you would never believe it - the French GP served up an exciting raceday - that was as much about driver talent, as it was about making the big call, and out-thinking, out-maneuvering the paddock.

It was simply brilliant.

Here we look at five highlights from Sunday's epic GP at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

5 Ferrari … whaaat?

Look, no one expected the Scuderia to push for a podium this weekend - the track layout was honestly not conducive to their setup. The team knew it, the drivers knew it, the paddock knew it and we knew it. Nevertheless, there was a hope that after two good performances in Monaco and Baku, the Prancing Horse would be just behind the Red Bulls and Mercedes, competing against McLaren as the best of the rest. Imagine everyone's surprise when they only managed to finish 11th and 16th, respectively.

ALSO READ: ’I'm not massively disappointed’: Lewis Hamilton plays down blow of another loss to Max Verstappen

The Ferrari's were way off the pace, and on the coming tracks where power will play a big role, they could be in heaps of trouble.

4 Oh, hello, Daniel

The Honey Badger finally showed some fight in his McLaren this past weekend. Previously, Daniel Ricciardo had been scoring points but it seemed he was only going through the motions. He genuinely looked more comfortable on Sunday, perhaps for the first time this season, in his new drive. More impressive was teammate Lando Norris. The 21-year-old secured another top 5 finish - his sixth in seven races - and has only placed outside the first 5 on one other occasion, in Spain where he finished eight.

ALSO READ: Max Verstappen tops third practice in France

McLaren are now third in the constructors' championship, a healthy 16 points ahead of Ferrari, and it is all down to Norris' consistency, and Ricciardo's continued improvement.

3 The green machine

Lance Stroll started at the back of the grid, and his Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel 12th, and yet the team played their hand brilliantly to finish 10th and 9th, respectively, and collect three important points. Both drivers played the long game, running on the harder compound tyres - Stroll pitted on lap 24, while Vettel only changed his tyres after a mammoth 37 laps.

It worked a treat, and Vettel in particular has now finished the last three races in point-scoring positions. Aston Martin looks to be finally clicking.

2 Here comes the pain

Previously, Mercedes has dominated the French GP, so there was a belief that they had a slight advantage going into the weekend. And after the first corner, when Sir Lewis Hamilton took the lead, and with Valtteri Bottas equalling his teammate's pace from third, it seemed that they would once again claim victory, even maybe a 1-2.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Could the track at the French Grand Prix suit Mercedes?

However, while Mercedes had the pace, they got it all wrong in their execution, running a one-stop strategy, despite the protestation of their drivers. The real concern for Mercedes here is that they failed to halt the progress of Max Verstappen and Red Bull at the Circuit Paul Ricard, which was considered a Mercedes track.

The next batch of GPs include two races in Austria, followed by Silverstone and Hungary. The back-to-back races from this weekend onward at the Red Bull Ring will be more suitable for, you guessed it, Red Bull and so will the Hangoring. Silverstone is arguably up for grabs, despite Hamilton having won there eight times in the last 10 years, especially now that his opponents will be so emboldened.

1 Red Bull masterclass

Red Bull employed a two-pronged strategy for their drivers this weekend, and it was an astute and ingenious tactic.

With Hamilton leading, Vertsappen employed the undercut to retake the lead in his first stop, and then Sergio Perez ran long and used the overcut to leapfrog Bottas into third. The team then assessed the moment correctly, ordering the Dutchman in for a second stop and onto the medium compound tyres, in which he chased down Bottas, Perez and Hamilton to claim an impressive victory.

It was chef's kiss good.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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