Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ title race and leave the world champion’s Mercedes team “with a big fight” to retain control of their Formula One fiefdom.
The Red Bull driver hunted down and overtook the world champion with over a lap to go at a gusty Le Castellet to claim his third win out of seven races this season. “Towards the end I enjoyed it! At the beginning it was super difficult out there with the wind,” said Verstappen.
This was a massive statement by the Dutch driver and his resurgent Red Bull team who won their third successive race after Monaco and Baku. It pushed Verstappen 12 points clear of Hamilton ahead of back-to-back races on Red Bull turf in Austria.
Mercedes, for so long used to ruling the roost, are relishing the two-team title battle. Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull came in third with Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes finishing fourth at the circuit where the mesmerizing light blue and red striped contours evoked a trippy psychedelic 1960s album cover.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had said before the race “if we can beat them here we can beat them anywhere” of Mercedes, who was itching to get back onto a regular track like the Circuit Paul Ricard after getting lost on the streets of Monaco and Baku.
But things got off to a bumpy beginning for pole-sitter Verstappen, who went off the track in a horror start coming out of turn one, Hamilton accepting the unexpected gift to take the lead.