F1 preview: A lap of the French Grand Prix
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Lewis Hamilton has been warned that he needs to be “careful” to prevent Mercedes slipping further behind Red Bull in the race for dominance in Formula One. Hamilton lost more ground to Max Verstappen in Sunday’s French Grand Prix and former world champion Nico Rosberg has been critical of Mercedes’ recent approach.
Verstappen moved 12 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship after passing Hamilton to make up for an earlier mistake and claim victory at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Mercedes were made to rue a strategic error of only stopping once, which left Hamilton out for one lap too many at Le Castellet.
Red Bull gambled on an extra pit stop and reaped the benefits to claim a third straight win despite Verstappen sliding wide on the very first corner to give Hamilton the lead.
Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles said on the radio that “this one’s on us” and Rosberg believes pressure is getting to the team.
“I think there [are] some rather big mistakes from Mercedes on strategy,” he said on Sky Sports.
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“This is absolutely awesome, that battle with Mercedes and Red Bull. Every detail matters.
“You can definitely see the pressure is there at Mercedes, because I’ve not seen them make so many mistakes in a long time. They’re still an unbelievable force, a phenomenal team.
“But [Red Bull’s pace] is such a boost, and they’re really (be)coming the dominant force more and more, which is putting so much pressure on Mercedes and we are seeing that Mercedes are making mistake after mistake.
“They need to be careful, they need to keep it together from now on to have a chance.”
Hamilton was understandably disappointed with a second-place finish, having led for so long, but he believes Red Bull’s speed advantage has him fighting an uphill battle.
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“Those guys are just too quick now,” said the seven-time world champion.
“They have taken a big step this weekend. We are losing three-and-a-half tenths just on the straights, so I think they have made some sort of improvement.
“We’ve got to figure out whether it’s just rear wing or engine. Either way, we’ve got to improve.
“If he hadn’t made a mistake in the beginning, the result would have been the same. We are quite slow in a straight line.”
Red Bull are three points ahead of Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship – the first time they have led the way since 2013.
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