Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ‘off-balance’ due to Max Verstappen and Red Bull

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Former F1 driver Damon Hill believes Mercedes have been knocked “off-balance” in their quest to become eight-time world champions, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull turning up the wick in the title battle.

Red Bull have been piling on the pressure all season, starting way back in Bahrain testing where Verstappen wiped the floor with his timings across the three days.

Arguably it’s the first time Mercedes have really felt the heat from a rival team since 2018, as Sebastian Vettel took the fight to Lewis Hamilton with Ferrari.

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Since Monaco however, there has been a huge swing in the championship, with the Dutchman taking control of the standings thanks to a tough weekend for Mercedes.

Baku also lent itself nicely to Red Bull, and despite Verstappen suffering a tyre blowout, the team still walked away leading both the driver and the team standings with no points scored by their main rivals.

Hamilton and Mercedes looked to bounce back in France, and despite a vast improvement from the previous two races, a clever strategy call from Red Bull saw Verstappen extend his lead at the top of the standings to 12 points heading into two rounds at Austria.

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And the 1996 world champion Hill believes any cracks that could be forming at Mercedes may well increase as the season progresses.

“I think the thing that’s interesting me and I think that will become very interesting as a story as we go through this year, is what is going to happen to this harmonious Mercedes team as we get further down the line,” Hill said on the F1 Nation podcast.

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“Because we know that Christian… there’s no love loss with any of his competitors with Christian Horner [Red Bull team principal].

“He’s quite happy to rib them when it goes wrong. And there was a few tetchy moments even before this weekend.

“But I think the Mercedes looked a little bit off-balance this weekend [French GP] and a little bit concerned in a way that I’ve never seen them as a team before.

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“And if you say that Lewis, he looked kind of content with his job, but he didn’t seem so concerned if you like, that his team seemed to be scratching the head or admitting errors on the radio during the race and that they’re a bit baffled as to as to how they’ve got overtaken.”

Ahead of the weekend in France, Mercedes announced there would be a chassis swap between Bottas and Hamilton, something both drivers and the team principal Toto Wolff said was routine.

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But Hill thought perhaps that change suggested there was some concern behind closed doors within the Mercedes camp.

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