Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘vulnerable’ Max Verstappen theory on Lewis Hamilton approach

Jamie Woodhouse
Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023. Jenson Button

Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023

Lewis Hamilton made the admission to Max Verstappen in the Canada cool-down room that the Mercedes W14 “sucks” in low-speed corners, and Daniel Ricciardo thinks Hamilton was trying to catch Verstappen with his guard down.

The Canadian Grand Prix was another crucial test for Hamilton and the Mercedes team as they looked to prove that their far-improved Spanish GP showing with the upgraded W14 was not a one-off success as the team claimed a double podium finish.

And while Hamilton did drop a step on the podium to P3 in Canada, the final margin to the dominant Verstappen, who claimed a fourth win in a row, was greatly reduced once more.

Hamilton had crossed the line 24 seconds behind his former title rival Verstappen in Spain, though at the Canadian GP that deficit was down to 14 seconds, with Verstappen not enjoying his usual freedom to build a huge gap after an early Safety Car period following George Russell’s whack of the wall in the other Mercedes W14.

Between Verstappen and Hamilton on the road was Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, and as the trio headed to the cool-down room post-race ahead of the podium celebrations, Hamilton would speak to Verstappen about the race, telling him that Mercedes “suck in the lower speed corners”.

Verstappen did not share such intricacies about the Red Bull RB19, and so Verstappen’s former team-mate Ricciardo, who returned to the team for F1 2023 as a third driver, believes Hamilton did not get what he was looking for, that being to pry some key information from Verstappen when he was in a potentially “vulnerable” state.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Lewis Hamilton makes frank admission to Max Verstappen in Canada cool-down room

Fernando Alonso gives hard slap to Lewis Hamilton as ‘salty’ dynamic returns

Speaking as part of an alternate telecast of the Canadian Grand Prix alongside actor and comedian Will Arnett, Ricciardo said: “It’s interesting you know, I see it as Lewis has gone up to him thinking he’s vulnerable and might let his guard down and try and get some information about the car and give it back to the team.

“But Max wasn’t giving him too much. It was all very blasé. I’ve been in those rooms enough times to know you’ve still got to be on it and not get complacent.”

Verstappen further stretched his Drivers’ Championship lead with that Canadian GP victory, his sixth of the season and 41st overall to match the tally of the late great three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna.

Verstappen is now 69 points up on Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who has seen his title challenge seemingly fall apart with an alarming recent slump in form.