Rosberg criticises Hamilton’s defence as too ‘soft’

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez on the 2021 French Grand Prix podium

Nico Rosberg criticised Lewis Hamilton for being too passive against Max Verstappen during the move that decided victory in the French Grand Prix.

Verstappen was on a two-stop strategy deployed by Red Bull and, on a newer set of medium tyres compared to Hamilton’s older hard-compound rubber, closed quickly on the Mercedes in the last few laps.

At his first attempt, the Dutchman got down the inside of the seven-time World Champion on the penultimate lap and executed the move to perfection, going on to win by 2.9 seconds.

The triumph compensated for Verstappen’s crash, caused by a blowout, while on the way to a seemingly comfortable win in Azerbaijan last time out and extended his lead in the Drivers’ standings to 12 points.

Rosberg, working as a pundit at Paul Ricard this weekend for Sky F1, was surprised by how easily his former team-mate Hamilton had yielded, even though Verstappen clearly had the faster car at the time.

“Unusual from Lewis…close the damn door, no? Usually Lewis is like the best one-to-one racer and I’m surprised he didn’t try,” said the German.

“At least try and brake late and keep him on the outside, so a bit soft there from Lewis somehow.”

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The 2016 World Champion was not entirely complimentary about Verstappen either, with the race winner and pole-sitter having made a mistake in the opening sequence of corners that gifted the lead to Hamilton when he briefly ran off the circuit.

“Turn 1 it was just clear that Max maybe just took a bit too much unnecessary risk and speed going in there,” said Rosberg.

“Maybe a lack of preparation a little bit because there was 40kph of wind from the back, so it was always going to happen in Turn 1 that it’s going to be super-low grip.

“So a bit of a mistake from there, but of course from then on just an awesome job from Red Bull and I think some rather big mistakes from Mercedes on strategy.”

With Hamilton having been undercut by Verstappen to relinquish the lead, and then Mercedes sticking to their one-stop strategy, it was clearly a race that tipped the balance of power even more towards Red Bull.

“It’s such a boost and they [Red Bull] are really becoming the dominant force more and more, which is putting so much pressure on Mercedes,” added Rosberg, whose former team are now 27 points behind in the Constructors’ title race.

“We are seeing Mercedes making mistake after mistake, so they need to be careful and keep it together from now on to have a chance.”

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