Raul Fernandez dominated the French Grand Prix in commanding fashion to claim his second Moto2 victory of 2021 as title contender Sam Lowes crashed out.
Pole-man Fernandez dropped behind Marco Bezzecchi off the start but managed to hang onto second by the conclusion of the opening tour, though soon found himself under pressure from a charging Joe Roberts.
The American relieved Fernandez of the runner-up spot several into the encounter before turning his attentions to the leading Bezzecchi, though his victory chances would be dashed as he braked too late into Turn 9 and lost the front of his Italtrans-run Kalex as he tried to avoid the leader, eliminating him from the race.
Fernandez soon arrived onto the rear of Bezzecchi though as he looked to re-claim the leadership, the rookie putting a strong move on the Italian to snatch away the initiative into Turn 11, the Ajo racer quickly beginning to pull ahead now with only fresh air in front.
He managed a lead of just over a second for the bulk of the remaining tours, though he came under pressure from team-mate Remy Gardner in the closing laps after the series leader managed to relegate Bezzecchi back to third having looked after his tyres well throughout.
He narrowed Fernandez’s advantage to just under 1.5 seconds with just under half-a-dozen circulations remaining, though the former calmly reacted and was able to pull back clear as the race neared its climax, allowing him to roll off on the final lap to take the chequered flag 1.490 clear of Gardner.
Fernandez’s second success in only his fifth intermediate class start moves him to just one point behind Gardner in the championship standings, while Bezzecchi-who completed the rostrum after dropping away from the leading duo in the latter stages-is third overall 17 points back from the Aussie.
Tony Arbolino and Bo Bensneyder put in strong performances to record their best ever Moto2 finishes in fourth and fifth respectively, the pair having pulled out more than 16 seconds on the close battle for sixth behind.
Marcel Schrotter ultimately came out on top of the war to claim the position as he narrowly held off Honda Team Asia rookie Ai Ogura, while Fabio Di Gianantonio was eighth despite having to serve a double long-lap penalty.
The Gresini racer forced Hector Garzo off into an early retirement while fighting for sixth at Turn 11 early on, Di Gianantonio receiving a long-lap for his part in the incident.
The Italian crossed the white line on the inside of the penalty loop as he entered though, forcing him to serve another soon after and leaving him a lowly 14th at the time.
Simoni Corsi enjoyed a positive outing for MV Agusta as he bagged ninth ahead of Jorge Navarro, the Speed Up ace denying Somkiat Chantra a top ten result at the death.
Lowes looked to have had strong speed from the get-go despite a sluggish start that saw him drop to 12th from tenth, the Brit chasing Xavi Vierge for sixth a few laps in.
He tried an overly ambitious move on the Petronas SRT rider into Turn 8 though and lost the front of his Marc VDS machine, taking both out of the contest-Lowes now 22 points from the lead of the series.
Cameron Beaubier was another to lose a great result having battled from 24th on the grid to sixth, the American Racing pilot crashing out at Turn 3 with only a handful of circulations left.