Max Verstappen said he had been “really upset” when “completely caught out” by his mistake right at the start of the French Grand Prix.
But all’s well that ends well, as the old saying goes, and the Dutchman eventually found himself on the top step of the podium after hunting down Lewis Hamilton for victory at Paul Ricard.
There was a scare for the Red Bull driver in the opening sequence of corners, however. Leading away from pole position, Verstappen ran off track and surrendered the lead to his title rival Hamilton, on whom he then performed the undercut to move back ahead after the scheduled round of pit-stops.
With Verstappen still in front on lap 32 of 53 but with the win by no means assured, Red Bull called him in for a second tyre change and on the medium-compound rubber, the 23-year-old bridged the gap and passed Hamilton on the penultimate tour.
The finish was much more enjoyable than the start for Verstappen.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) June 20, 2021
“The beginning I would say was really tricky for me. A little wobble into Turn 1 – it happens, so of course you have to analyse everything,” he told reporters afterwards. “It just completely caught me out, so I was just fighting the car a lot.
“I was really upset at the time but you also have to just think ahead. It was still a long race, a lot of things could happen and I just tried to follow.
“The first stint was really difficult for us because it rained this morning and Formula 3 took the rubber away with the rain tyres. The track was just a bit too green for us with the low wing and it was very windy out there today. I think it took a while for us to actually get a grip on it.
“Through the middle of the race, our pace started to pick up because the track had rubbered in and the wind was a bit calmer. That seemed to suit our car a bit better, and to win it with two laps to go is very rewarding, especially on a track like this.”
Verstappen and Hamilton now have three wins apiece this season, but it’s the challenger to the seven-time World Champion who now holds a 12-point advantage in the Drivers’ standings – a gap that would have been even greater but for a tyre blowout that caused him to crash with victory at his mercy in Azerbaijan two weeks earlier.
“What happened in Baku you can’t turn back, those points are lost,” added Verstappen, who also did not want to see this win as revenge for when Hamilton claimed a similarly-executed success against him in the Spanish Grand Prix last month.
“I never really want to talk about revenge – you keep on going, try to do the best you can and of course I’m very happy with this result.”