Honda took a big step forward in its quest for the top spot of the Formula 1 universe Sunday as Max Verstappen carried his Red Bull Racing Honda to the team’s third consecutive win, posting a come-from-behind victory in the French Grand Prix. The victory marked the first three-race F1 win streak for Honda since 1991.
Verstappen’s third win of the season came after he chased down Lewis Hamilton on the race’s penultimate lap, while his teammate Sergio Perez used strong tire management to finish third, giving Red Bull Racing its first double podium of the 2021 season.
Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing team used a daring two-stop strategy to set its driver up for a late-race run, pitting the Dutchman out of the lead Lap 32 and dropping him behind the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – who were then forced to run a single-stop strategy. With 20 laps to run, Verstappen was 10 seconds behind Hamilton, but steadily ate away at the deficit, passing Bottas with nine laps left.
The championship leader then set his sights on Hamilton and was seemingly stalledfive seconds behind with six laps to go. But a series a quick laps brought Verstappen to within one second of the lead on Lap 51, putting him into position to make the pass in Turn 8 on the subsequent orbit of the Paul Ricard circuit to take the win. Meanwhile, Perez chased down Bottas after his own late pit stop and took third to give Red Bull a double podium.
Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly had a strong day in his home race, running in the top eight all day after starting sixth. Gasly’s effort over the last 20 laps helped him hold off Fernando Alonso and finish seventh, marking his sixth consecutive points-paying finish and matching the longest streak of his Formula 1 career. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda made up seven spots after starting on Pit Lane due to a qualifying crash, finishing 13th
Verstappen also gained an extra championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race and has widened his lead in the Drivers Championship to 12 points over Hamilton. Perez expanded his gap over Lando Norris for third in the standings while Gasly maintained his eighth-place spot. Honda’s third straight win expanded its lead in the Constructors’ Championship to 37 points. Sunday’s event opened a week of three races in three weeks as the teams run next Sunday at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
Technical Director, Honda F1
“A fantastic win for Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing Honda. With Sergio Perez third, we ended up with two drivers on the podium and this was also our third consecutive podium finish. Max dropped a place from pole after the start, but running a different strategy to Mercedes, combined with a strong car and PU performance saw him retake the lead at the very end of the race with another great overtaking move. Perez ran his own race for most of the afternoon, on a different strategy to his teammate and again, he was able to gain a place in the closing stages. For Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, Pierre Gasly delivered another strong performance, showing how consistent he is. Having to start from pit lane, Yuki Tsunoda managed to show his pace, making up several places to finish 13th. The competition was very close but all elements of the team did a very good job. It is a very encouraging result for the upcoming races.
Max Verstappen – Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 1st, Finish: 1st (Third win of the year)
“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. 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. 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 until we get to Austria and start again.”
Sergio Perez – Red Bull Racing Honda
Start: 4th, Finish: 3rd
“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 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 solid points but I 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.”
Pierre Gasly – Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 6th, Finish: 7th
“I think objectively it was a good race, we finished behind some strong competitors and we can’t be too dissatisfied with that. Obviously deep inside I would’ve liked to have finished even further up the grid in front of my home crowd, but it was a difficult race and I think we did the best we could’ve today. We’ll have to review the data and see if we could’ve done anything differently. I gave everything I could out there today, and we had some great fights out there, so I have to be pleased with that. At the end of the day I think to finish P7 is still a strong race for us and we’re taking home some good points.”
Yuki Tsunoda – Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 20th,, Finish: 13th
“The first lap was really good, I started from the pitlane and managed to make up three places. We got stuck behind the Alfa Romeos, who were on a different compound, so we tried to make the undercut work. I had to push from the very beginning on that tire though and by the end of the race they were completely gone. Again, I have more mileage and race experience in a Formula 1 car so that’s really positive for me. I now just need to work on my Qualifying so that I can start the race further up the grid and have a better chance of scoring points.”