Max Verstappen has revealed Red Bull did not expect to have the pace to achieve the crucial undercut that led to his victory over Lewis Hamilton in the French Grand Prix.
After Verstappen started from pole but lost the lead following a mistake into turn one, Red Bull eventually turned to a two-stop strategy to help the Dutch driver ultimately get the better of Hamilton.
En route, Verstappen's cause was aided by the fact he managed to reclaim the lead from the seven-time F1 champion at the first round of stops, even though he was adrift by just over three seconds when he pitted.
What followed caught even Verstappen unawares. He reflected: “My out lap was good but I didn’t expect the undercut to be so big. When I went out I suddenly had so much more grip on the tyres everywhere.
“I don’t know how fast Lewis’ stop was, so I need to look at it again, but nobody - including us - we never expected to undercut Lewis so it just clearly showed that with new tyres and the tricky conditions out there….
“When you’re on used tyres of course it’s easier to lose the car a little bit or whatever because of the wind, so with new tyres you have one lap where everything feels a lot better.”
Verstappen goes from hunted to hunter
Hamilton ended up stopping once and Verstappen was able to chase him down and pass for the win on the penultimate lap.
It was almost a mirror image of the Spanish Grand Prix when Hamilton was the hunter via a two-stop strategy as he hunted down Verstappen.
Asked how different an experience it was being the hunter, mentally and inside the car, Verstappen added: “It depends a bit how much you’re catching, or how much the other guy is catching if you are the one ahead, on older tyres.
“But what can you do? Even if you know he is going one-and-a-half, two seconds a lap faster, you have to do what you can do with your pace, focus on yourself and then you will see if he appears in your mirrors or not.“
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