LE CASTELLET, France – Max Verstappen ran down Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps to earn his third Formula One victory of the season Sunday during the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Verstappen started from the pole and led the field into turn one. However, he missed the second corner and that allowed Hamilton to sneak past him and into the lead as Verstappen slotted back into second.
From there it was a game of cat and mouse as Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, opted for a one-stop strategy while Verstappen and the Red Bull team went with a two-stop strategy.
Verstappen made his first stop on lap 19 with Hamilton stopping one lap later. Verstappen regained the lead during the pit stop cycle, but he returned to the pits for his second stop on lap 34 and handed the lead back to Hamilton.
From there it was all about fast laps for Verstappen, who set about erasing a nearly 15 second deficit to Hamilton. He began by lopping off more than two seconds per laps, which allowed him to quickly run down second-place Bottas.
Verstappen dispatched Bottas on the 45th lap, leaving him roughly five seconds behind Hamilton with less than 10 laps left. Again Verstappen went to work, slowly erasing the deficit to Hamilton.
With two laps left Verstappen was there and he quickly pounced, using DRS to overtake and dispatch Hamilton to take the lead. He roared away from Hamilton in the final lap and a half, beating him to the checkered flag by nearly three seconds.
“There were quite a lot of back markers to work through, but luckily they all did well and it was a good fight to the end,” Verstappen said. “The whole race we (Verstappen and Hamilton) were fighting each other. I think we’ll be like this for the rest of the season.”
Hamilton said his tires were too far gone to defend against Verstappen in the final laps of the race.
“I had no tires left at the end,” Hamilton admitted. “We’ve got to find some pace, that’s for sure. Most of the time we lost today was on the straights. We’ve got to try and figure out where that is, whether its power or drag. We’ve still got a good package.”
Sergio Perez completed the podium in the second Red Bull after running down Bottas in the waining laps. Bottas settled for fourth, with McLaren’s Lando Norris taking home fifth.
Verstappen’s victory, combined with him also setting the fastest lap, gives him a 12-point edge over Hamilton in the Formula One driver standings.