Late defeat just showed true pace, Hamilton says

Drew Gibson/Motorsport Images

Late defeat just showed true pace, Hamilton says

Formula 1

Late defeat just showed true pace, Hamilton says


Lewis Hamilton says losing out to Max Verstappen late in the French Grand Prix was simply a reflection of his true pace as Red Bull had the stronger car.

Verstappen started on pole position but an error at the start handed Hamilton the lead at Turn 2, one he would hold until the pit stops when Red Bull pulled off an undercut to get Verstappen back ahead. However, with tire degradation high, Verstappen then stopped for a second time and rejoined in fourth place, hunting down Hamilton — who stayed out — and taking the win with a lap and a half to go.

“Not gut-wrenching at all,” Hamilton said. “We did a great job today and it just didn’t work out, so I’m not massively disappointed. I think I did the best job I could today. Of course there were things that we could probably have done slightly better but overall they’ve been quicker than us all weekend, so it’s a true reflection of the pace they have.

“I’m sure if we look in hindsight, for sure if we had stopped earlier — before they stopped — and come out ahead, just gone onto a two-stop, we probably could have won the race. But it would have still been very difficult — their pace was generally very, very strong. I was able to keep him at bay when he was behind me, but if he had not made the mistake in Turn 1 then they would have just led the race all the way, probably.”

Hamilton out up a fairly tame defense given how late in the race Verstappen caught him, but said he was weighing up the chances of his keeping the Red Bull at bay and had seen teammate Valtteri Bottas struggle after blocking the inside into the Turn 8 chicane.

“Firstly there’s marbles on the inside, so I didn’t want to make my tires any worse than they already were. He had the DRS open — if he didn’t pass me there he would have passed me on the straight afterwards so it made zero difference. I had no front end so he would have got me either way, so it was pointless to defend any harder. I think you saw what happened with Valtteri — just ended up going straight on — so there’s no point messing up the tires any more.

“Yeah, the two-stop would have potentially have done the job, but the two-stop was not on the cards at all for us, so we’ll do some analysis and try to figure out why.”