Max Verstappen achieved an F1 career first when he secured a hat trick of pole, victory and fastest lap in France, demonstrating that despite having to overhaul Lewis Hamilton late in the race, he was on top of his game throughout.
It was the 61st French Grand Prix, the 17th at the Le Castellet circuit, and in recent years it has been a Mercedes track, with Hamilton winning from pole position in both 2018 and 2019 [the race was not held last year].
The reigning champions were comfortably beaten on this occasion, while down the field there was more proof that Lando Norris is ‘best of the rest’, a clear sign that Fernando Alonso is back on his game, and a small high for Haas.
Here are some of the top stats from last weekend.
Hat-trick hero Verstappen
Verstappen had completed 125 races without achieving a clean-sweep until last weekend, where he pulled it all together to claim his fifth pole, his 13th victory and his 13th fastest lap.
It was the third time he has converted pole to victory [on the other two occasions he was second] and it was also the third time he has set the fastest lap when winning the race.
Verstappen was in control for most of the weekend, setting the fastest time in two of the three practice sessions and two of the three qualifying sections. Sergio Perez made it two Red Bulls on the podium for the first time since Bahrain last year.
Three in a row for Red Bull
Since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, as we all know Mercedes has dominated, winning seven consecutive drivers' and constructors' championships, leaving their rivals to savour the odd victory here and there.
Mercedes' crown has slipped to such an extent this season, however, that for the first time in this era another team has now managed to win three successive grands prix.
Following triumphs in Monaco for Verstappen and Azerbaijan for team-mate Sergio Perez, the Dutch driver's success in France means Mercedes is being forced to endure a feeling they have not encountered since the end of 2013 when Red Bull was dominant.
The wrong kind of three in a row for Hamilton
In contrast to Verstappen, after starting the season with three wins in the first four races, Hamilton has now failed to win any of the last three grands prix.
The seven-time champion had to settle for second in France after being caught by Verstappen on the penultimate lap as their respective teams opted for different strategies.
It is the first time since the Belgian, Italian and Singapore Grands Prix of 2019 that the Briton has not triumphed for three consecutive races, leaving him 12 points adrift of his Red Bull rival in the drivers' standings.
High fives for Norris
Like Verstappen, Norris is on top of his game this season and he managed to get himself into the ‘best of the rest’ position again in France, finishing fifth behind the Red Bull and Mercedes pairings.
It was the sixth time in the seven races this year he has finished fifth or higher [so far his record is 4-3-5-8-3-5-5] and it extended his points-scoring streak to 12 races, with his last finish outside the top-10 now eight months ago.
McLaren has now scored double points finishes in six of the seven races, despite Daniel Ricciardo struggling to get to grips with his car, but it was only the second time this year [Imola being the other] that both have finished in the top six.
Alonso ‘struggling’? Don’t think so…
Fernando Alonso has been continually baffled by questions over his ‘struggles’ at Alpine since returning to F1 this season, and in France he continued to prove the doubters wrong, moving ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon in the standings.
He made his fourth Q3 appearance of the year in qualifying at Paul Ricard, one more than Ocon, and in the race his eighth place was his fourth points finish of the year [10, 8, 6, 8], matching Ocon’s four [9, 7, 9, 9] but at a higher level.
Lofty heights for Haas
There appears to be a bitter war brewing at Haas between team-mates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, but while team principal Guenther Steiner has his hands full, he at least had a small reason to smile in France.
Schumacher gave Haas its first Q2 appearance since the Nürburgring in 2020, ending a run of 12 consecutive Q1 exits. There was not much joy in the race, however, as both Haas cars ended up in the final two positions.
The days of half the field failing to finish are long gone, but despite the considerable improvements in reliability, this was just the 10th time in F1 history a race had ZERO retirements.
The reliability of the modern cars, however, is made clear by a second retirements stat – that six of those 10 full-field finishes have come in the turbo-hybrid era.
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