Lewis Hamilton ‘very happy’ but admits Mercedes worry after Max Verstappen wins French GP
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second place after Max Verstappen triamphed in Paul Ricard to extend his lead at the top of the driver standings by 12 points over the Briton.
Hamilton had initially swept past the Dutchman after he locked up his tyres going into turn two, but found himself behind the 23-year-old during the first pit stop window.
Red Bull blinked first and pitted Verstappen before Mercedes could try and perform the undercut, with Hamilton diving in a lap later – yet the Dutchman produced a blistering out-lap, with the seven-time world champion rejoining behind the championship leader.
Mercedes were then caught napping after Red Bull took the bold approach to pit Verstappen for a second time in France, which ultimately paid off.
Verstappen emerged in fourth, but on fresher tyres carved his way up the pack, before lunging past Hamilton on the penultimate lap, denying the reining champion the win, and the chance to take back the lead of the standings.
Max Verstappen hails ‘very rewarding’ French GP win
A victory for Verstappen and a podium for Sergio Perez means Red Bull now lead the team standings by 37 points.
And the seven-time world champion admitted they have a lot of work to do, if they are to take back the lead of the standings.
“We’ve got to find some pace, that’s for sure,” he added.
“You have seen most of the time we lost today was on the straights. So we’ve got to dig deep, figure out where that is, whether it’s power or drag.
“We’ve still got a good package, I’m not really sure how we lost position today [at the first stop].
“We didn’t know how strong that was going be or not [the undercut].
“What was really surprising was the run out of that front tyre so early on.
“But obviously they had a good strategy and it worked really well for them.”
And when asked what he thought when Red Bull pitted Verstappen for a second time, Hamilton responded, “Well, he was already quite far ahead, so really the only option I really had was to stay out.”
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