Rather than being an internal fight at Mercedes, as was the case in 2016 when it came down to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, this is a two-way ruck between two teams and two men.
The Red Bull man won at the French GP at Circuit Paul Ricard last weekend, a brilliant victory that his team called right strategically to take him to his third victory of the season.
The fault this time round lay with Mercedes’ engineers and not the drivers but mistakes are creeping in both in and out of the cockpit and Red Bull are seizing the chance to control the title race.
Verstappen passed Hamilton on the penultimate lap. But Hamilton would have triumphed had Mercedes not been caught napping by Red Bull’s two-stop strategy.
The seven-times world champion played down the pain of his latest defeat by Formula One leader Max Verstappen in France on Sunday and said the race was a real reflection of Red Bull’s pace.
Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, was reflecting on how his one-time title adversary ceded ground to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the penultimate lap at Paul Ricard.
JONATHAN MCEVOY IN LE CASTELLET: Max Verstappen won an exciting French Grand Prix to extend his world championship lead over Lewis Hamilton to 12 points after a great battle.
Although Hamilton was beaten to pole by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and will start from second on the grid, he was at least content to believe he had nailed a theory aired on TV the day before.
JONATHAN MCEVOY: The Dutchman’s fifth career pole gives him the best chance of extending his four-point lead over the defending champion in Sunday’s race at the Paul Ricard circuit.
Max Verstappen, fastest in Friday’s concluding running, ended the final action before qualifying seven tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas, while Lewis Hamilton was way down in fifth.