Great calls and brilliant racing: Verstappen gets the better of Hamilton in France

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Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap to win a pulsating French Grand Prix on Sunday (20 June) afternoon. Verstappen stopped one more time than his rival after Red Bull rolled the tactical dice and outfoxed their Mercedes rivals. Indeed, Hamilton will be left questioning a series of strategy calls by his team after he led the opening exchanges of the race.

Verstappen's Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez also fought his way past Bottas to take third place, with the Finn fourth and Lando Norris fifth for McLaren. Verstappen, who crossed the line 2.9 seconds clear of Hamilton, extends his championship lead to 12 points.

Hamilton led the first 19 of 53 laps. Verstappen appeared to have delivered the perfect getaway after beating the Mercedes driver to the opening corner. But the Dutchman carried too much speed into the left-hander and fell off the track allowing Hamilton to assume the lead.

Verstappen rejoined the track to keep Bottas behind and that is how the order remained until the opening round of stops.

Mercedes blinked first, calling Bottas in on lap 17 in the hope of leapfrogging Verstappen. The Red Bull driver stopped on the ensuing lap and emerged ahead of Bottas.

Curiously, Mercedes kept Hamilton out for an additional lap, and Verstappen took advantage of his fresh rubber to move ahead of his rival.

"I am not sure what happened there, mate," Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington told his frustrated driver after seeing the Red Bull man assume the lead.

Hamilton kept Verstappen on his toes, moving to within half-a-second of the championship leader but failing to make a real impression. Verstappen was on the radio, warning his team that they would not be able to keep up the relentless pace without stopping again.

And sure enough, with 21 laps to go, Verstappen came in for a second change of tyres.

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