Lewis Hamilton says he is excited by the prospect of getting to fight Max Verstappen in the wet if it rains at the French Grand Prix, and hit back at the suggestion that differences between the Mercedes chassis are affecting him this weekend.
The forecast is for a chance of rain during Sunday, and the two main title rivals will start alongside each other on the front row, with Verstappen on pole position. While Hamilton says Red Bull’s pace has been particularly impressive in France, he is hoping for a close race on Sunday and anticipates opportunities if rain does hit.
“Congratulations to Max — he did a great job today,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been incredibly quick. You see they have a new engine for this weekend, not a new spec or anything as far I am aware. They’re quick down the straights. I think it was a lot of time down the straights today. We’ve got a race on our hands and we’re loving the battle. We are going to keep pushing, keep fighting and giving it everything.
“In practice it was a real struggle and I think they were a tenth or two quicker than us on the long runs but my car is in a much different place now so I am just going to stay hopeful, do everything I can.
“Obviously in second you’ve got a fighting chance down to Turn 1 and there’s going to be some interesting strategy tomorrow. Maybe it will rain so you potentially get to see the rain masters do their thing. I am excited.”
That excitement comes despite Hamilton admitting it has been difficult to get the most out of his car, but he took the opportunity to dismiss a theory from former driver and Sky Sports commentator Paul di Resta, who was conducting post-session interviews, about differences in the respective Mercedes chassis after a swap between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“It’s been a really, really hard weekend. Mentally, not physically — just trying to get the car into a happy place. You wouldn’t believe how many changes I’ve made since practice one, going round and round, chasing the tail, ending up coming back to something similar to where we started.
“Generally, I am happy in the car all weekend. I saw you (di Resta) coming up with some myth and so I was happy to be able to prove it wrong. Of course, our engineers work, all the cars are exactly the same.
“I heard yesterday that Paul was saying something about the chassis, just creating a question about whether our chassis are the same. But as you can see today, we managed to do a great job with the same car. So it’s no different. We just in general are struggling from getting everything with the tires and the car in the right window and it’s proving tricky. It’s not a case of putting the car on the track and it works everywhere. It’s a great challenge and we’re all enjoying the challenge. We’ll continue to put our heads down.”