Verstappen overcame first lap error to win French Grand Prix

Max Verstappen made a penultimate lap overtake to beat his title rival Lewis Hamilton, with an aggressive and unexpected two-stop strategy key to his victory at Paul Ricard.

Verstappen had earlier lost the lead by running off track ahead of the race’s second corner, before gaining first position back when the power of the undercut caught out Mercedes at the first pitstops.

But, with all the drivers struggling more with tyre degradation than had been expected in what were cooler conditions at Paul Ricard on race day compared to the rest of the weekend, this time it was Red Bull that gave up track position for the second half of the race to set up another grandstand finish along the lines of the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix and the 2021 race in Spain.

At the start of the French Grand Prix, Verstappen led Hamilton away from the front of the grid and looked in command as he ran through Turn 1, but as he swept around the fast left-hander and began to move towards the Turn 2 right, the Red Bull driver had to catch a sudden slide.

Verstappen was suddenly heading right when he should have been positioning his car to the left ahead of Turn 2 and had to run off track as he caught the slide, keeping tight to the bollards on the inside of the second corner.

As Verstappen was catching his slide and running off, Hamilton steamed around Turn 2 and the Red Bull inside kerbs to easily move into the lead.

From there, Hamilton built a 1.4-second lead by the end of the first lap, despite having to catch his on lurid slide coming onto the pit straight at the end of lap one of 53.

The leaders quickly dropped Sergio Perez, running in P4 in the second Red Bull, as Hamilton ran untroubled up front and Bottas pressured Verstappen’s second place – dipping in and out of DRS threat towards the end of the opening ten laps.

The three leaders were the only cars able to lap regularly in the low-mid one minute, 39 seconds throughout the opening stint, where Hamilton calmly built a solid lead over Verstappen.

The gap had just about reached three seconds when Mercedes brought Bottas in at the end of lap 17 to switch his starting mediums for hards, after drivers who had stopped earlier and were running in the pack – Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo – made gains with an undercut.

Red Bull reacted by bringing Verstappen in at the end of the following lap and the Dutchman was able to return comfortably in net P2, now also on the hard tyres.

Hamilton made the same switch a lap later, but Verstappen stunned him by making into Turn 1 ahead as the Mercedes, which was stationary for a tenth of a second less at its stop compared to the Red Bull, was still getting back to speed.

Verstappen was back in front by under immense pressure from both Mercedes, who ran in DRS range behind the net leader (Perez led until he stopped at the end of lap 24 having cycled to the front when the runners in front came in).

For the ten laps after Verstappen retook the lead, Hamilton was able to run within a second, but, as the leaders discussed the possibility of turning their expected one-stop strategies into two stops, the gap began to edge out.

By lap 32, Verstappen led by 2.2 seconds as he was able to stay in the one minute, 37 seconds bracket, while the following Black Arrows cars slipped beyond that into the mid one minute, 38 seconds, but at the end of that lap Red Bull called the leader in to go back to the mediums.

Once he had completed his out-lap, Verstappen had an 18 seconds gap to close back to the lead and he began to carve into that advantage by around two seconds a lap as he ran in the mid one minute, 36 seconds versus Hamilton’s mid one minute, 38 seconds.

Perez waved Verstappen by at Turn 11 on lap 35, with Mercedes telling Hamilton the catch would depend on how long it took his title rival to battle by Bottas and if Verstappen could keep his mediums in better shape than most drivers managed in the first stint.

Verstappen reached Bottas with ten laps to go, his rate of catching the two Mercedes cars slowing after his initial onslaught, with Hamilton in particular getting back to regularly lapping in the one minute, 37 seconds, as they all had to make their way through backmarker traffic.

On lap 44, Verstappen closed on Bottas with DRS down the first half of the Mistral Straight, and when the Mercedes defended to the inside of the first part of the Turns 8/9 chicane Bottas ended up losing momentum.

That allowed Verstappen to get alongside on the run down the rest of the straight and he retook second as they swept through Turn 10, Signes, which gave Verstappen 5.1 seconds to close on Hamilton over the final nine laps.

The gap initially only came down in small bursts, but as Hamilton toured back in the one minute, 38 seconds as the distance to go ticked under five laps, Verstappen was able to gain the best part of a second a lap as the traffic between the leaders disappeared.

At the start of the penultimate lap, Verstappen was finally within DRS range – the gap at 0.7 seconds – and he seized the lead back at the first opportunity, heading into the chicane on the Mistral Straight.

Verstappen had closed in rapidly with DRS, and although Hamilton defended to the inside, the Red Bull as able to get alongside on the left-hand side approaching Turn 8 and Verstappen sealed the lead at the apex of the first part of the chicane/

He pulled clear over the final lap and a third, winning by 2.9 seconds, with Perez coming home third ahead of Bottas as the Mexican driver was able to bring his offset one-stopper tyre life advantage to bear in the closing stages.

Perez took third sweeping around the outside of Signes on lap 49, with Bottas furious he had not be switched to a two-stopper.

Lando Norris was another driver to make late stop on the one-stopper work to his advantage, as he climbed the order to finish fifth and ahead of teammate Ricciardo.

Pierre Gasly finished seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll coming home in the final points paying positions after starting on the hards – Stroll from the last row of the grid – and running deep into the race before coming in.

Leclerc, the first driver to pit in the race, tumbled down the order as his hards wore out, and he was eventually put on a two-stopper, which left him down in P16.

Carlos Sainz Jr also struggled for tyre life in his Ferrari, finishing 11th having started fifth, with George Russell beating the pitlane-starting Yuki Tsunoda to P12.

So excellent race to victory from Max Verstappen. After giving away his lead on the opening lap with a slide, the Red Bull strategy played a major part in strategy and Max’s speed was so awesome and to pass championship rival Lewis Hamilton on the lap 52 was great. Really enjoying this title fight this season.

French Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27:25.770
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2.904
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 8.811
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 14.618
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 64.032s
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 75.857s
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 76.596s
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 77.695s
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 79.666s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 91.946s
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 99.337s
12 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +1 lap

5 thoughts to “Verstappen overcame first lap error to win French Grand Prix”

  1. French Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Red Bull took their third consecutive win of the season at a cracking French Grand Prix courtesy of Max Verstappen, who passed Lewis Hamilton with two laps to go to claim the thirteenth victory of his career, Hamilton finishing second as the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez completed the podium.

    In a mirror of the Spanish Grand Prix – when Mercedes out-strategised Red Bull to claim the victory – Verstappen stopped twice to Hamilton’s one-stop, with the Dutchman then using his fresher tyres to close up to the Mercedes, passing on Lap 52 of 53 to check out for his third win of the year.

    It more than made up for Verstappen losing out to Hamilton from pole at the race start, Verstappen taking the win as well as the extra point for fastest lap – with the result also marking the first time Red Bull have won three races on the bounce in the turbo-hybrid era.

    Behind, Valtteri Bottas ended up a disgruntled fourth behind Perez, having complained to Mercedes that he was ignored when he advised them to switch to a two-stop, as Red Bull did with Verstappen.

    Behind the leading four, a superb day for McLaren saw Lando Norris finish a fine fifth, ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who enjoyed arguably his best race of the year to take sixth.

    AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly demonstrated strong race pace to take his best ever finish in his home Grand Prix with P7, ahead of the Alpine of Fernando Alonso.

    Sebastian Vettel made a long first stint work to take his third consecutive points finish with ninth, while team mate Lance Stroll completed the top 10 thanks to a late pass on the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – capping off a bad day for the Scuderia, who lacked race pace at Paul Ricard, with Sainz ending up 11th as Leclerc could do no better than P16.

    But after a thriller of a French Grand Prix, it was all about Verstappen, who took an decisive strike at the start of the first triple header of what’s turning into a phenomenal 2021 season, extending his lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ standings to 12 points.

    With title rivals Verstappen and Hamilton side by side on the front row as the five lights went out, the key question for Lap 1 was: would one of them blink? In the event, Verstappen did, the Red Bull driver getting a snap of oversteer on the exit of Turn 1 and being forced to dive off the track into the run-off, rejoining in second as Hamilton swept through into the lead.

    Behind, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez held onto their third and fourth places, while further down the order, a smart start from McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo from P10 saw him move ahead of his team mate Lando Norris around the outside of Turn 1, with Norris also passed by the Alpine of Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard claimed P8 – with Norris then briefly repassing Ricciardo before running off track a lap later and ceding P9 to the Australian.

    Lap 2 and Sebastian Vettel was on the move, making a neat move on the Alpine of Esteban Ocon for P11 at the Turn 8 chicane. Ricciardo was also getting interested in an Alpine, Ricciardo sharking in his old adversary Fernando Alonso’s mirrors across the first 10 laps, but unable to make his way past.

    At the front, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was lingering around the 1.5s-2.0s mark, with the top 10 on Lap 10 of 53 Hamilton from Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, then Carlos Sainz in P5, from Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Alonso, Ricciardo and Norris.

    A lap later and the McLarens pounced on the struggling Alonso, Ricciardo finally getting the two-time champion into the Turn 8 chicane for P8, while Norris then put in a brilliant, opportunistic move on the same driver three corners later, nipping past the Alpine into Le Beausset to claim ninth – while Vettel was through on Alonso two laps later at the chicane too.

    By Lap 15, Ricciardo was also past Leclerc for P7, with Ferrari deciding to call their man immediately into the pits for the first stop of the day, as the Monegasque switched from his mediums to hards – with Ricciardo following suit a lap later as McLaren tried to undercut him ahead of sixth-placed Gasly.

    They did better than that, with Ricciardo passing both Gasly and Sainz in the pit stops after those two drivers came in a lap later – although Leclerc had also managed to repass Ricciardo in the pits too.

    With Bottas having pitted on Lap 17, crunch time #2 of the day came on Lap 18 when Red Bull decided to bring Verstappen into the pits. Would the undercut work here, with Hamilton having managed to establish a 3s cushion over the Dutchman?

    It would. Verstappen put in a blistering out-lap – and with Hamilton called in a lap later, as the Mercedes exited the pits, Verstappen flashed past and back into the net lead, with Perez actually heading the field having not yet stopped.

    Hamilton’s engineer Pete Bonnington was straight on the radio to apologise, with Hamilton telling his team exasperatedly: “Come on guys.” The power of the undercut had also put Bottas right on the tail of his team mate, with the Finn’s side of the garage willing on their man, saying: “We’re enjoying this Valtteri.”

    Perez was eventually brought in on Lap 24 (along with the McLaren of Norris), making the order Verstappen from Hamilton and Bottas – the top three cars running within three seconds of one another – with Perez around 15s adrift when he emerged from the pits.

    So Verstappen was leading – but both he, and the two Mercedes, were being vocal over their doubts about whether they could make it to the end with their tyres. And so, with memories of their Barcelona beating by Mercedes presumably fresh in their minds – when Hamilton went for a surprise two-stop to ensure himself victory over Verstappen in the Spanish Grand Prix – Red Bull pulled Verstappen in for a second stop on Lap 32, the Dutchman bolting on mediums and dropping to P4 behind Perez.

    The Dutch driver now had 20 laps to haul himself up to Hamilton and Bottas and try and find a way past.

    With 10 laps to go the order was Hamilton from Bottas, with Verstappen just over five seconds behind Hamilton – then Perez, from Norris in P5 (the Briton having passed Ricciardo on Lap 34) with Ricciardo sixth from Gasly, Alonso, Sainz and Vettel – the Aston Martin driver having stayed out on hards until Lap 37. Leclerc meanwhile, had fallen to P16 after opting to pit again, the Ferraris having a horrible day on race pace.

    Lap 44 and Verstappen made a crucial move on second-placed Bottas, attempting and failing a pass into the chicane, but then making it stick on the inside through Les Signes – Bottas angrily shouting at Mercedes: “Why the **** did no one listen to me when I said it would be a two-stop?”

    That left Verstappen with just a handful of laps to get up to Hamilton – and get past. Then on Lap 52 it happened. Having edged up to his rival with a series of searing laps, Verstappen DRS-ed his way onto the rear wing of Hamilton on the blast down the Mistral Straight begore slipping easily through into Turn 8, as the crowd of 15,000 were brought to their feet.

    “Simply lovely,” was how Verstappen’s race engineer GianPiero Lambiase summed up his man’s efforts, and it was hard to argue, with Verstappen then able to check out for his third win of the season, matching the tally of Hamilton, who held P2 – with Verstappen also claiming the bonus point for fastest lap, as well as Driver of the Day plaudits.

    It was Perez who claimed P3, passing Bottas with four laps to go to compound the Finn’s unhappiness, as Bottas finished fourth – at least managing to claim his first points since the Spanish Grand Prix, as Perez made it Red Bull’s first double podium of the season.

    Lando Norris looked to have been handed a difficult strategy from McLaren on first sight after being left out until Lap 24. But he made it work to perfection, slicing his way through the field and up to fifth, finishing just ahead of team mate Ricciardo – McLaren moving decisively back ahead of Ferrari for P3 in the standings, after the Scuderia went point-less, having suffered from poor race pace, Sainz and Leclerc winding up P11 and P16.

    A great home race for Pierre Gasly gave him seventh, ahead of Alonso and the two Aston Martins of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll – the team in green following up Vettel’s podium in Baku as they rounded out the top 10 here in France.

    After Sainz, George Russell took 12th for his best finish this year for Williams, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda – recovering well from a pit lane start from a change of floor and gearbox to take 13th – with the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon a disappointing 14th at home.

    Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was 15th, ahead of a presumably bewildered Leclerc, with Kimi Raikkonen, Nicholas Latifi and the two Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin rounding out the retirement-free field.

    So, it’s Verstappen who landed a big blow in the championship fight against Mercedes at the Circuit Paul Ricard – traditionally the happiest of hunting grounds for the Silver Arrows after their wins here in 2018 and 2019. But can Red Bull maintain their advantage at their home track, the Red Bull Ring, in just a week’s time?

  2. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton commented that sticking to an one-stop strategy was his “only option”. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes had no choice but to stick to a one-stop strategy to try and beat Formula 1 title rival Max Verstappen in Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

    Hamilton fell to a late defeat to Verstappen at Paul Ricard after an aggressive switch to a two-stop strategy paid off for Red Bull.

    Hamilton took the lead from Verstappen on the opening lap after the Red Bull driver ran wide at Turn 2, only to drop behind again at the first round of pitstops.

    Verstappen ran less than a second clear of Hamilton in the Mercedes behind shortly into the second stint, only for Red Bull to bring him again at the end of lap 32.

    Mercedes stuck to its plan and kept Hamilton on a one-stop strategy, but the seven-time world champion was unable to keep Verstappen back as he reclaimed the lead on the penultimate lap.

    Hamilton was heard regularly discussing the condition of his tyres throughout the race. After Verstappen pitted, Mercedes radioed Hamilton and said, “let us know what you think”, but did not bring him in again.

    But Hamilton felt Mercedes had to stay out as pitting in response to Verstappen would only have brought him out behind once again.

    “He was already quite far ahead, so the only option I really had was to stay out,” Hamilton said.

    “Otherwise again, he was undercutting me , so he would just come out ahead and I wouldn’t be able to pace as they are too quick on the straights.

    “So, the only option was to stay out as long as possible and hope that the tyres held together.”

    The result marked Red Bull’s third win in a row and saw Verstappen extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 12 points over Hamilton.

    “We’ve got to find some pace, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said.

    “You can see most of the time we lost today was just on the straights, so we’ve got to definitely dig deep, try to figure out why that is, whether it’s power or drag. But we’ve still got a good package.”

    Hamilton said that he was “not really sure” how he had dropped behind Verstappen in the first round of pit stops, only to be informed that the powerful undercut meant the extra lap he stayed out had cost him.

    “We didn’t know how strong that was going to be or not,” Hamilton said.

    “But what was really surprising was to run out of that front tyre early on, but obviously they had a good strategy and it worked really well today.”

    He added:

    “Congrats to Max, he did a great job today,” Hamilton said after the race.

    “They just had the better straight [line speed] all weekend, and I think just considering that we had such a difficult Friday, I’m really happy with today’s result.

    “Of course we didn’t win, and we were in the lead, but I had no tyres left at the end, so yeah unfortunately lost the position. But still it was a good race.”

  3. Mercedes had “no choice” but to pit Valtteri Bottas first and spark the early stops that ultimately cost Lewis Hamilton in his fight against Formula 1 rival Max Verstappen.

    Hamilton was able to pass pole-sitter Verstappen on the opening lap of the race after a mistake from the Red Bull driver, and led the opening stint.

    But it was third-placed Bottas who was the first to pit at the end of lap 17, moving from the medium to the hard-compound tyre.

    Red Bull responded by bringing Verstappen in one lap later, with the powerful undercut allowing the Dutchman to jump Hamilton, who waited until lap 19 to pit.

    Red Bull made use of Verstappen’s track position to switch him to a two-stop strategy later in the stint, forcing Hamilton to stick to a one-stop.

    Verstappen was able to pass for the lead with fresher tyres on the penultimate lap, clinching the race victory and extending his championship lead in the process.

    Speaking on Sky Sports F1 after the race, Wolff explained Mercedes’ early strategy calls, rebutting pundit Nico Rosberg’s suggestion the team had been “too greedy” with Bottas.

    “No, we had no choice,” Wolff said. “Valtteri’s tyre had started to have a vibration, and towards the end, we were really worried the vibration came through the suspension already.

    “He could have had a failure at any time, because he flat-spotted the tyres.

    “We knew that we were going to trigger the stops too early, but [we had] no choice.”

    Hamilton was left confused after the race why he had lost track position to Verstappen at the first round of pitstops, only to be told it was because the overcut had been so powerful.

    Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles was heard talking to Hamilton on team radio after the race, saying: “This one’s on us. Thank you for doing everything you could to recover that race.”

    Wolff felt that Hamilton would have been safe with an extra one-second gap to Verstappen in the first stint.

    “It went back and forwards,” Wolff said. “We were in the lead, because Max made the mistake, so that was a bit inherited.

    “Then our pace was good. I think probably maybe a little bit of a margin, even, but then we had just about three seconds gap for the undercut, to protect the undercut.

    “But it wasn’t enough. We’re lacking a second, and somewhere we lost it.”


  4. Valtteri Bottas believes his angry radio message didn’t go too far. has the full details.

    Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas believes he didn’t go too far with his angry team radio message during the French Grand Prix, in which he slammed the team’s one-stop strategy.

    Bottas was looking strong in the opening stages of the race at Paul Ricard, shadowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in third.

    Leader Verstappen came in for a second stop for medium tyres on lap 32, which was the planned optimal strategy for the race.

    Knowing it would lose the race by default if it were to follow Red Bull’s strategy, Mercedes decided to leave both Hamilton and Bottas out until the end of the race on worn hard tyres.

    For Hamilton, that gamble nearly worked as he managed to keep Verstappen at bay until the penultimate lap, when the Dutchman swooped past.

    In Bottas’ case however, the impromptu one-stopper left him vulnerable to both Verstappen and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who overtook him to grab the final podium spot.

    Realising his race was compromised by the one-stop strategy, Bottas reacted angrily on the Mercedes team radio, shouting: “Why the f*ck does no one listen to me when I say it’s going to be a two-stopper?!” F***ing hell.”

    After the race, Bottas explained that his anger surfaced because the team didn’t follow the pre-planned two-stop strategy – which turned out to be the winning one – as he struggled to keep his tyres alive until the end.

    “I think the winning strategy today was a two-stop. It is easy to say afterwards but that is how it is,” Bottas told Sky Sports F1.

    “As a team I think we were too focussed on completing the one stop thinking it was the best but it wasn’t.

    “I had no front tyres left for the last 10-15 laps so it was really just trying to get the car home. It was not fun the last stint.”

    When asked by reporters if his radio message went a bit too far, Bottas said he was just speaking his mind about what he thought was happening.

    “I was making very clear what I was thinking,” he added. “I was suggesting a two-stop earlier in the race but the team went one-stop and here we are.”

    Bottas said he was a “sitting duck” as both Verstappen and Perez easily passed him in the final stint.

    “You feel like a sitting duck, it is quite simple,” he explained.

    “Of course, I tried everything I could. I tried to finish on the podium but the tyres were completely gone so no chance.

    “I think we thought the tyres would last a lot better than they did, I think that was the biggest thing. We thought the hard tyre could do nearly the whole race but that was not the case.”

    When asked if his Mercedes team could have done more for him today, Bottas said his strategy prevented him from fighting for victory: “If I did a two-stop for sure we would have been on the podium and fighting for the win.”

  5. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen said that the radio issues didn’t make France win more complicated. has the story.

    Max Verstappen says his late French Grand Prix team radio problems did not make his Formula 1 victory at Paul Ricard more complicated, as they occurred after his final pitstop.

    Verstappen executed an aggressive two-stop strategy to win the 2021 French GP ahead of one-stopping Mercedes driver and title rival Lewis Hamilton, with the circumstances of the race playing out along similar lines to the season opener in Bahrain and the Spanish GP.

    Hamilton won both of those events after Verstappen botched his late passing attempt in Bahrain and Hamilton was switched to a two-stopper at Barcelona that also involved giving up track position to his rival, as Red Bull chose to do on Sunday at Paul Ricard.

    But when Verstappen returned to the track to complete his third stint, charged with closing an 18-second gap and passing both Mercedes drivers, Red Bull was at times unable to hear his radio messages.

    The team instructed him to try and move the microphone embedded in his helmet, but this did not seem to have made much of an impact as the race entered the closing stages, where Verstappen in any case successfully chased back to Hamilton to reclaim first – which he had initially lost with an off at the race’s first corners and then unexpectedly taken back by undercutting Hamilton at his first stop.

    When discussing Red Bull’s successful race-winning strategy in the post-race press conference, Verstappen explained that the team radio issues meant “even if I wouldn’t agree to it, I could have been talking on my radio but they would never understand me anyway!”

    He added: “I don’t know [what the problem was].

    “It was literally next to my mouth. I tried to change it and it was always in the same position as previous races and stuff. So, I don’t know happened.”

    When asked if the radio problem had made his third stint harder, Verstappen replied: “No.

    “I just couldn’t talk back to them. But they of course could feed me all the information and that’s the most important [thing] – because the stops were done.

    “So, I could talk to them [if the radio had been working], but what can you do?”

    Verstappen also said that victory in the French GP – previously a Mercedes stronghold where the Black Arrows had been undefeated since the race returned to the F1 calendar in 2018 – was “very promising”.

    “Clearly, in the race with how the conditions were in the beginning [cooler and windier compared to qualifying and with less rubber on the track surface after rain on Sunday morning], it was not easy for us,” he continued.

    “But then again towards the end I think the car started to come together again and we were very competitive.

    “Of course I’m very pleased for that and I hope that we can keep this up.”

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