The French Grand Prix is upon us and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finds himself in unfamiliar territory – trailing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by four points in the F1 drivers championship.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race, the two title contenders said it would be awesome to see some more exciting racing between them.
“Both teams are competitive. We [Red Bull] haven’t been amazing around Circuit Paul Ricard in previous years. I think our whole package is more competitive this year and look forward to seeing what we can do,” Verstappen said.
Hamilton, who has dominated the previous two French Grand Prix, said he was keen to get going again and improve on the last race. Mercedes has had two disastrous races in Monaco and Azerbaijan, with both its cars failing to finish in the top 10 of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who had a chance of clinching the race in Baku, Azerbaijan, made a rare error at the restart on the 49th lap. The Briton finished 15th and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who also had a horrible weekend too, managed 12th place.
“We have learnt a lot [from the last two races]. We continue to strive for perfection, we continue to unite and there’s not much we can’t do when we are together and united,” Hamilton said.
He said he was looking forward to racing on a more conventional track where their tyre temperatures will not be as affected as they were at Azerbaijan and Monaco, which are street circuits.
“It [Circuit Paul Ricard] has been good for us in the past. But I anticipate a tough weekend actually. The Red Bull has shown some serious pace in races at conventional tracks such as Barcelona,” he said.
Talk is that Hamilton’s “mistake” in Baku is because of the pressure he is feeling from Red Bull and Verstappen this year.
“I don’t count it as a mistake. I don’t feel any pressure. I feel relaxed. You can’t always be perfect,” Hamilton said.
Verstappen goes into this weekend’s race with 105 points, only four ahead of the seven-time world champion. He could have extended the lead in Baku but had a tyre failure while leading the race.
Pirelli said Verstappen’s tyre failed due to a “circumferential break on the inner sidewall” on the left-rear hard compound, which was related to the running conditions of the tyre”.
The Belgian-Dutch driver was not happy with Pirelli’s explanation.
“For me, it was vague what came out. The team did everything as it should, they followed all the guidelines,” Verstappen said.