Ross Brawn has said that the gloves-off battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at Paul Ricard was the epitome of what Formula 1 is all about, as both drivers went through periods of intense pressure throughout the race.
With the race ebbing and flowing between Verstappen and Hamilton as their respective strategies played out, it wasn't until the penultimate lap where the race was ultimately decided in the Red Bull driver's favour. Brawn said the whole race provided a spectacle that showed F1 in its best light.
"Max’s passion and agony in the middle of the race, when the pressure
was so intense, was infectious," Brawn wrote in his post-race column,
"Those guys were driving at a pace they all knew they couldn’t maintain but nobody wanted to blink first and pit. It was fabulous watching the race evolve from a slow burner to humdinger.
"This race was the epitome of F1 – we saw the human side and the strategy side of the sport in all its glory. And Verstappen was the one who came out on top."
With the race becoming a strategic battle after Red Bull pulled back time through a powerful undercut to take back track position, Brawn said it appeared to have been a case of the numbers not reflecting the reality for Mercedes.
"It’s clear Mercedes were caught out by the potency of the undercut," he said.
"Clearly what played out in the race didn’t match the numbers. That was the surprise. Then, of course, it was who pulled the trigger first with a possible second stop.
"Once someone pulls the trigger for a second stop, you can’t pit a lap later as it’s too late. You would be beaten. You are then committed to going long. It was quite brave from Red Bull to do it from a leading position. But they didn’t want a repeat of Barcelona. It was a really competitive and aggressive approach for Red Bull, and that created a great finish."
Brawn praised Lewis Hamilton for almost managing to make the one-stop strategy work, somehow coaxing more and more performance from his aging hard tyres as Verstappen slowly reeled him in.
"What Lewis demonstrated was his ability to bring more out of the tyres in difficult circumstances compared with Valtteri, who obviously took more out of tyres. Lewis is a master of eking out performance. I still wasn’t convinced that even five laps from the end, Max was going to do it, so impressive was Lewis on that stint. It could have gone either way.
My wife asked me ‘what would I be doing if I was back on the Mercedes pit wall?’ and I said I‘m glad I’m not on the pit wall. I’m too old and it wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure!"