Max Verstappen says he was left shocked by his advantage over Lewis Hamilton thanks to the undercut during the French Grand Prix and praised his team for taking a gamble with a two-stop strategy.
Verstappen made an early mistake on the opening lap with cold tyres and allowed the seven-time world champion to sweep past him for the lead of the race.
Red Bull then blinked first and pitted Verstappen, who was running in second behind Hamilton, ahead of Mercedes to try and stop the chances of an undercut from their main rivals.
Hamilton then came in a lap later for new hard tyres, looking to rejoin ahead of the Red Bull man.
But, thanks to a blistering out-lap from Verstappen, Hamilton had to slot in behind the Dutchman in net second place, with Sergio Perez leading but yet to pit.
“I think it took until the middle of the race for us to get into a nice balance because, in the beginning, I was just oversteering a lot, and [it was] difficult to really put the power down,” explained Verstappen.
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“Of course, we had a good out-lap [after the pit stops] on the hard tyre so I got ahead of Lewis, which was very unexpected, because, yes I had a good out-lap, but [I was] thinking I would just slot in behind him, and then I saw he was coming out of the pits and I had an opportunity to go for it.”
However, Hamilton was hot on the Dutchman’s heels with slightly fresher tyres, trying to find a way around the Red Bull to regain the lead, closing in on the 23-year-old.
Red Bull then took a gamble and pitted Verstappen from the lead for a fresh set of medium tyres, which ultimately worked out as he carved his way back up the field and back past Hamilton for the win.
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“For like eight laps, or I don’t know how many laps, Lewis was giving it all to come by, so it was not easy to keep him behind.
“And then, of course, we opted to go for the two-stop, and I was like, ‘OK, well let’s see if this is going to work out,’ because you never know around here.
“Also, backmarkers were not making it easy to really clear them and gain a lot of time every lap.