Victory for Max Verstappen never looked in doubt as he cruised to his 4th Victory of 2021. Mercedes scored a double podium as Bottas held off a late charge from Sergio Perez.
Verstappen had the stronger start off the line and Hamilton was unable to challenge for the lead. Norris and Perez, who started on the softer compound battled for 3rd. Norris eventually won out after the first lap slipstream battles. Leclerc cut Gasly’s rear left tyre across the second straight and this led to contact with Giovinazzi and Latifi. Gasly retired after limping his stricken Alpha Tauri back to the pits.
Verstappen was able to break the DRS barrier before it was activated, this put the Dutchman in a very advantageous position. Just behind, Norris remained in front of Perez who was leading Bottas.
Russell climbed up to 7th after the first few laps, the Briton enjoying his strongest race start in recent memory. He was being challenged by Ricciardo, who loked liked to pass, until he suddenly lost 4 places after a power issue.
On lap 10, Norris bizzarely let Perez sail past into turn 3, before attacking back into turn 4. A lap later, Bottas had an easy overtake in exactly the same position. It was unclear whether McLaren were completely focused on strategy, or if they were nursing another issue.
The drivers held formation during the majority of the first stint, saving their tyres for the end of the race. At lap 20, the gap was 5 seconds between the top 2. However, both drivers started to complain of handling issues, something potentially caused by the wind becoming more powerful as the race drew on.
Despite his tyres being 27 laps old, Verstappen was still setting fastest laps, constantly extending his advantage over the Mercedes. Behind, Perez was holding on to 3rd ahead of Bottas, but was starting to lose time.
Heartbreak for Russell
Russell was the first of the point scoring positons to pit, but suffered an incredibly slow first stop. He would come in again a lap later, destroying his race prospects. By lap 39, he was out. The Briton would have to continue to wait to score points for Williams.
Perez was next to pit, suffering a similar fate. However, Bottas’ stop was clean and managed to come out just in front of Perez.
Hamilton pitted a lap later and also enjoyed a very clean stop, as well as Verstappen, leaving the top 2 unchanged.
The remainder of the midfield went long on their stops, attempting to unlock an extra strategy advantage.
As the race drew on Verstappen started to complain of a braking issue. In response, he was told to avoid the kerbs under braking. Luckily for him, he had an 8s buffer.
Perez’s late charge
With 16 laps to go, Perez made another surprise stop from 4th. This was not only a final attempt to claw back a podium finish, but to also take the fastest lap away from Hamilton. Perez got the fastest lap immediately and was closing the gap at 2s a lap.
Hamilton, whilst trying to close the gap, received a final warning for track extending at turn 10. He pitted with 2 laps to go to claim the fastest lap and 1 championship point on the last lap.
But, with 1 lap to go, Perez was just over a second behind Bottas. After a tense tour, Bottas finished 0.5s ahead, just managing to secure a podium. Norris yet again impressed with a quiet drive to 5th. Ferrari bounced back after a poor showing in France to a double points finish ahead of Stroll, Alonso and Tsunoda.
So, not quite the thriller that fans might have been expecting, but Verstappen’s win is extremely noteworthy. At this point, Red Bull clearly appears to have the stronger car and a win this dominant will be a cause of concern for Mercedes. To make things worse for the Silver Arrows, we’re back here again next week.
Full race results:
- Hamilton + 35.743s
- Bottas +46.907
- Perez +47.434
- Norris + 1 Lap
- Sainz + 1 Lap
- Leclerc + 1 Lap
- Stroll + 1 Lap
- Alonso + 1 Lap
- Tsunoda + 1 Lap
- Raikkonen + 1 Lap
- Vettel + 1 Lap
- Ricciardo + 1 Lap
- Ocon + 1 Lap
- Giovinazzo + 1 Lap
- Schumacher + 2 Laps
- Latifi + 3 Laps
- Mazepin + 3 Laps
- Russell RET
- Gasly RET
Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter