Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2021

Hamilton unsure how Mercedes gave up lead to Red Bull

2021 French Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said he didn’t understand how he lost his early advantage after finishing second in the French Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver took the lead on the first lap of the race when Verstappen went off at turn two. But he dropped behind the Red Bull driver when the pair made their first pit stops, Hamilton coming in on the lap after Verstappen.

“I’m not really sure how we lost position today,” Hamilton said, admitted the team “didn’t know how strong” the benefit of being the first to fit fresh tyres would be.

The Mercedes driver moved back into the lead when Verstappen made his second pit stop on lap 31. While Hamilton stayed out, Verstappen close on him steadily, and passed for the lead approaching the Mistral chicane on the penultimate lap.

Hamilton said the team did the right thing by leaving him out at that point.

“He was already quite far ahead the only option I had was to stay out otherwise because he’s again undercutting me he would just come out ahead and I wouldn’t be able to pass, they’re too quick on the straights. The only option was to stay out as long as possible and hope the tyres hold together.”

“We’ve got to find some pace, that’s for sure,” he added. “Most of the time we lost today was on the straights. We’ve got to dig deep, find out where that is, whether it’s power or drag. We’ve still got a good package.”

The world champion said he was relieved by the result following an uncompetitive start to the weekend in practice.

“Congrats to Max he did a great job today,” said Hamilton. “They just had better strength all weekend.

“Considering we had such a difficult Friday I’m really happy with today’s result. Of course we didn’t win and we were in the lead but I had no tyres left at the end and unfortunately lost the position. Still, it was a good race.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Hamilton unsure how Mercedes gave up lead to Red Bull”

  1. The same way you’ve won a few races yourself. Undercut and unexpected pitstop.

    1. Cristiano Ferreira
      20th June 2021, 16:33

      That’s why i call him “Sir” Hypocrite, because he tends to forget things that have gone his way in the past.

      Also he doesn’t have a dominant car and engine to carry him confortably to wins and pit stops anymore.

      1. Verstappen has the faster car now. I think he’s the next one in your denigrating succession line.
        Have a great Sunday

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          20th June 2021, 16:55

          You too mate. Don’t forget to wash your mouth after sucking Hamilton.

          1. Everyone is a hypocrite sometimes, but this time isn’t one of them. Merc had the advantage by bringing in Bottas first and forcing Red Bull to react with Max.

            All they had to do was bring Hamilton in the lap after Bottas (same lap as Max), and there would be nothing Red Bull could do. There was no surprise by Red Bull, it was Mercedes shooting themselves in the foot after being in control of the pitstop domino effect.

          2. Classy. Didn’t expect anything different from a person that had been begrudging the guy.
            A shrink may help you.

          3. You think Mercedes are bigger noobs than Ferrari? “Mercedes Is Noob” and not “Ferrari Is Noob”?

          4. “DoN’t FORget to WAsH Your mOuTH AftER sUCkInG hAmIlToN.”

            Really? Using that word? Really?

      2. Yes he should have known exactly when the RBs pitted, their tyre life, in and out lap times, why they pitted Bottas first, and what governed everyone’s strategy decisions and how much the undercut was worth as soon as he got out of the car.

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          20th June 2021, 17:06

          A simple response would be:

          RB did to us what we did to them in Barcelona.

          That’s all.

    2. The question has a bit more — HAM gap to VER was similar to that of VER gap to BOT. If BOT couldn’t benefit from the same undercut, how come VER managed to do it? Maybe, Mercedes underestimated VER’s outlap pace by comparing it to that of BOT.

      1. Warfield Wolf
        20th June 2021, 17:59

        The question really is :-
        1-why could Bottas not overturn a 2.6 sec gap with undercut?
        2-Why did merc think bottas could use undercut to gain 2.6 sec but were totally unaware that Ham 3 sec gap was pretty much the same and therefore he was vulnerable. Should be obvious to the mega brains at merc you protect track position….. lots of ball dropping, but ver & ham did well, enjoyable race

      2. Max was held up in the corners by the Merc ahead. You saw Max ‘test’ his extra pace at around lap 8, pulling away from Bottas en reeling Lewis in, to give the strategists the required data.

        On the outlap, the speed potential through the corners was unlocked. Mercedes had the first pit box in the lane, which was awkwardly placed and required a sharp turn-in to position the car correctly. Lewis also seemed to not accelerate very well out of the pitbox after the otherwise nice stop. All this combined cost them a good 2 seconds, enough to lose the lead.

        After the race, Hamilton was complaining about the Red Bull straight-line speed, but it was the corner speed that the Mercedes were truly lacking in.

  2. Lewis, you did all you could. If there was any driver in the field I would take to do the challenge, he would be number 1 on my list. Just debrief with the team and try to help each other sort things out because this performance so far is almost similar to Ferrari in 2019.

    1. Ferrari 2019 had serious performance problems though, mercedes 2021 is just fine and on average the fastest car in the race, while red bull is the fastest car in qualifying, but points are given in a race and with drs you pass in almost all tracks.

  3. I’m not sure Mercedes really had any answer to Red Bull today. The latter’s extra straight line speed when the cars are more or less equal meant Mercedes were always vulnerable to different strategies. And this time Verstappen learnt his lesson and timed the pass on Hamilton perfectly. It’s going to be cat and mouse all season and just now Red Bull look smarter. Hamilton actually had an almost flawless race. The car just isn’t the best any more.

    1. Whether the Mercedes is still thr best car is still up for debate. The race was won on strategy today not outright car speed. Its pretty obvious you’re a Hamilton fan that can’t take him losing. F1 is a lot more enjoyable when you accept that sometimes other people just do a better job.

      1. Eh? Saying Mercedes haven’t got the best car is accepting that Red Bull have done a better job. (Kind of. Ignoring how the regulations for this year very calculatedly affected Mercedes’s car design more. But their race strategy was better.) Over the race, Hamilton and Verstappen were pretty much even in pace and skill – though this time Verstappen made the bigger error at the start. Maybe you didn’t notice.

        1. Kind of. Ignoring how the regulations for this year very calculatedly affected Mercedes’s car design more.

          That is only a theory at best.
          We know the front wing rule change hurt redbull more. But the rake theory is just that. An excuse for not delivering.
          Most prominent is the advantage Mercedes had with their engine is almost gone.
          Honda did a great job, so we now have two equal cars and strategy and driver and setup make the difference.

          1. I’m not sure we disagree in the end erikje, the cars are evenly matched, the drivers too in my view, so it
            is down to setup, strategy and performance (mistakes or excellence) on the day, as you suggest. I’m just saying that praising Red Bull for doing a better job is relative when regulatory changes were introduced that weren’t technically speaking impartial: both the low rake cars, Mercedes and Aston Martin, have clearly seen the biggest drops in performance this season when there was little room for them (with the token system) to achieve a more radical solution to their rear downforce issues.

      2. The cars are pretty equal, to the point where just a difference in setup and track’s characteristics can lead to one being faster on the straights and another being faster in corners.

        After every GP qualifying you can find on Youtube a side by side quali laps comparisons between RBR and Mercedes, and here at France RBR was faster on straights. Also if in the race a car behind with DRS couldn’t catch and pass a car in front with no DRS on such a straight as the Mistral, that car surely is lacking some top speed.

        But back in Monaco it was the other way around, Mercedes was faster through the Tunnel and actually even leading before braking into Neuvelle chicane only to lose everything in that one corner.

        You can argue that the cars are equal, but there is clearly no more dominance by any of them this year, that’s a fact. And I find this fascinating. Isn’t this what all the fans wished for – Hamilton and Verstappen in the equal cars? Instead of throwing false claims about one car being significantly faster, or pointless accusations of “cheating” with wings, tyres, oil burning, etc., let’s just enjoy the greatest battle of two great drivers in the matching machinery.

        1. Sounds reasonable to me :)

      3. Its pretty obvious you’re a Hamilton fan that can’t take him losing

        Serious extrapolation there! LOL!

        1. I thought it was pretty common knowledge that for this weekend RBR opted for less downforce which is what made them faster on the straights. I’m not going to assume this race means that now RBR are faster overall. As Max and many others, commentators for example have said, it should be a see-saw battle all season. Merc are going to have their races yet where they’re faster too. That RBR were able to do what they did at this track is a great sign for them, but is still no guarantee of anything. As it is, tire deg was way different than anyone had anticipated, so for me it’s still one race at a time. I think it is safe to say RBR are not dominating like Mercedes has had the luxury of doing in past seasons. It is still RBR that have the mountain to climb, while it is Merc that are trying to stay on top. And they’re making it difficult for RBR where usually nobody has been able to make it difficult for Merc for a whole season in this hybrid era.

          1. Yes, mercedes is still the team to beat and furthermore on average to me it looks like red bull has the advantage in qualifying so far and mercedes in the race, and points are given in the race, I don’t get deceived by the fact red bull won this race, cause mercedes strategically threw it away if you see hamilton pulled away by 3 sec in the first stint and was on verstappen’s gearbox for several laps in the 2nd.

  4. Even if they kept the lead verstappen would have undercut him the second time. Thy could have had bottas undercut verstappen to neutralize this but somehow I feel like Mercedes would have missed the chance or bottas would not have done the out lap.

  5. When you have the fastest car for the race, it opens up various workable strategy option, be it you’re currently in front or behind of your opponent. This weekend clearly Red Bull demonstrated the fastest car in the hand of Max Verstappen, so Red Bull team can use the first undercut, and second unexpected pit stop strategy even in comfortable lead.

  6. Mercedes shouldn’t have let Max undercut them at the first round of stops – that was a clear error of judgement. They triggered the stops with the undercut from Bottas, so they knew Max would stop the next lap. They should have stopped the same lap with Hamilton and guaranteed they kept track position. The second round of stops was more forgivable because Perez was in the pit window and Hamilton would have had to overtake both him and Max when Redbull had the straight line speed advantage. So staying out was fair and by the time Max had undercut again there was no time to cover it even if they wanted to.

    In hindsight a second stop for Bottas might have let him recover P3 from Perez, but they were prioritising him holding up Max to help Lewis win, which was also a reasonable call.

    1. @keithedin Failing to prioritize Hamilton’s track position and their own control of the race was inexplicable. Then, exactly, as you said, once they had triggered the pit stops with Bottas, Hamilton had to come in next lap. Could Mercedes have pitted a second time? Had they been quicker than Red Bull and undercutted, maybe. It was marginal, like Bahrain, but expecting Verstappen to fail to pass Hamilton at the end with a similar mistake was too much I thought. As it happened, Verstappen seemed to hold back and then catch Hamilton quickly and decisively on the penultimate lap. Lesson learned.

      1. Davethechicken
        20th June 2021, 21:03

        Bottas has no desire to see Hamilton succeed.
        Perez jumps to RBRs tune instantly diving out of Max’s way any time he is ahead. Bottas fights Hamilton for position.
        Redbull have had the fastest car since preseason testing and a totally compliant number 2 driver.
        Mercedes are infighting and losing.
        I was bored with Hamiltons dominance so not all that sorry.

        1. Didn’t know speed in f1 was all about the 1 lap pace, I thought race pace mattered too, and I only saw a superior mercedes in the race in non-street tracks.

          1. Davethechicken
            21st June 2021, 10:39

            Who mentioned one lap pace?
            The RBR is clearly superior in race trim.

    2. If they come out in front of Verstappen after the first stop, as you suggest, they might well have made the one stop strategy stick.
      Hamilton clearly looked a bit quicker than Max on the hards straight after the first stop, might have extended his lead by another couple of seconds, and wouldn’t have burned the tyres trying to get close enough to pass as he did.
      Fine margins, but it might well have given him the win. Giving up track position gave him no chance since even when quicker over a lap, the straight line speed wasn’t there.

  7. Huge mistake by the team. They pitted Bottas. From my tv i could see the gap dropping, Bottas setting fastest sectors.

    And they took 2 extra laps to pit Hamilton for no reason at all. A safe 3 second lead almost turned into 3rd place.

    I doubt Red Bull would’ve gambled with the tyres had they come 2nd place after the first round of stops. Being able to push the tyres without thinking on long term was what gave them that lead to stop and come back not that far behind. Something they would not be able to do with Hamilton ahead.

  8. RocketTankski
    20th June 2021, 17:27

    Could be..
    1. RB have cheaty wings
    2. Honda have cheaty engine
    3. Bottas didn’t stop in the right place

    1. 1. Not anymore but Mercedes has still his flex frontwing
      2. No, they used a new engine which gives just a bit more horsepower then the engine Mercedes used which already raced 1 race.
      3. Could be but that was not a big problem for Mercedes the tactics was.

  9. Because the red bull is the best car, it’s faster in a straight and has better traction in the corners.

    1. A lot of people believe that to be the case, its pretty clear that at best the cars are equal but Mercedes are not the fastest anymore.

      1. @slowmo Mercs have lost most if not all their previous advantages. They started this season on the back foot where as Rbr had the advantage and have kept it. Only a couple of mistakes from both teams and unfortunate mishaps have been the difference.

        Both will have to keep pushing and this is shaping up to be a fascinating contest.

        1. Davethechicken
          20th June 2021, 21:07

          RBR have clearly had the fastest car since ince the last few races of 2020 and are extending their advantage steadily.
          They will only lose the WDC or constructors by bad luck or bad driving.

          1. Your right the first 2 races but Mercedes came back strong and it’s track related who is fastest. But the tyres is what the cars made fast.
            As you noticed Red Bull is fast on the soft, Mercedes is fast on the medium (in the beginning) and on the Hard is Mercedes fast if the tyres are on temp otherwise it’s Red Bull.

            If Red Bull keeps develops his car further i think the WC is over after 15 rounds IF Mercedes doesn’t develop the car either.

  10. This could possibly be Mercedes brashness from all those years with dominant cars and driver pairing going for the optimal strategy, but now getting caught out.

    For sure they will play percentages more going forward, but they’re not used to that. Poor Bottas. It means even more wingman role.

  11. If Merc pit Lewis 1 lap after Bottas which is what they should of done then Lewis is probably building a big gap so then the 2nd stop they can cover easier Merc looked very racey but also chewed through them tyres quite alot behind Max in the 2nd stint. Lewis pits same lap it could of been a different story. Lewis had no benefit of an undercut Bottas did. Do not get atall why people are hating Bottas aint winning no championship for Merc with the cars this close. He should be a wingman and it should be known he is one aswell. Checo Perez is aswell. People are silly if they think Perez breathing down Max’s kneck some race with better tyres he does not get told to hold station.

  12. Mercedes lost it in a few places. They didn’t understand how powerful the undercut was even though they had plenty of evidence from Leclerc and Bottas. Then Bottas didn’t hold up Verstappen long enough after Verstappen made his second stop. If either of those scenarios were different, Lewis probably would have been on the top step.

    I think the combination of Perez taking third and Bottas not doing a good enough job as rear gunner for Hamilton despite being in a chassis he said he was much more confident in will mean a Bottas/Russel swap. If there are more instances of Bottas just letting Red Bull drivers by we could see that swap before the end of the season.

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