Hamilton concedes Red Bull are ‘just too quick now’

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton thought there was nothing Mercedes could have done to stop Red Bull at the French Grand Prix because their rivals “are just too quick now”.

It had appeared as though F1’s two top teams of 2021 were quite evenly matched for pace at Paul Ricard and that Red Bull had got the better of the tactical battle.

That was courtesy of a two-stop strategy for Max Verstappen, which enabled him to switch to medium tyres with 21 laps remaining and chase down Hamilton, eventually getting past him on the penultimate tour for his third victory of the campaign.

But although the seven-time World Champion had led until his own solitary pit-stop following a Verstappen mistake in the opening sequence of corners, and also been able to pressurise the Dutchman after being the victim of the undercut, Hamilton thought Red Bull had simply been too quick on the day.

“There are lots of positives to take from today, so I’m not seeing it as a tough day,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.

“I did everything I could out there and didn’t really make any mistakes and I’m generally happy with the position and results.

“It would have been nice to win but those guys are just too quick now.

“They have taken a big step this weekend, we are losing 0.35sec just on the straights. They have made some sort of improvement and we’ve just got to figure out whether it’s rear wing or engine. Either way, we have to improve.

“We are going to the next two races [both in Austria] where straight-line speed will be important, so it’s going to be tough.”

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Hamilton indicated it had essentially been a reverse situation to the Spanish Grand Prix, where he had benefitted from having a faster car and a superior strategy to hunt down and pass Verstappen when Red Bull had chosen to stay out rather than make a second pit-stop.

“If Max hadn’t have made a mistake at the beginning then the result would have been the same,” said the 36-year-old Briton.

“The only reason we had the position was because Max made a mistake. I managed to just stay ahead but, like I said, we are quite slow in a straight line.

“Ultimately, in the end, they [Red Bull] stopped again before us so there was no reason for us to stop ourselves.

“We just had to try to hold on and see if we could stay out in front. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”

Asked if he had wanted to pit earlier, to try to consolidate his advantage rather than suffering the undercut, Hamilton said: “No, we were supposed to stop much, much later than we did, so we were already stopping earlier.

“It’s then a long second stint, as you could see, and even Max didn’t think he could have kept going [on a one-stop].”

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