Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton played down the pain of his latest defeat by Formula One leader Max Verstappen in France on Sunday and said the race was a real reflection of Red Bull’s pace.
The Briton had won at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, with no race last year due to Covid-19, but his hopes of a hat-trick ended when resurgent Red Bull out-smarted the champions on strategy.
The seventh race of the season was a reversal of the Spanish Grand Prix in May when Hamilton hunted down Verstappen, who said then that he felt like a sitting duck, in the closing laps to win.
This time it was the champion who was on the receiving end as Verstappen made a second pitstop and used his fresher tyres to make up the time and overhaul Hamilton on the penultimate lap.
Asked how gut-wrenching the feeling had been, Hamilton — now 12 points behind his Dutch rival — said it had not been at all.
“I think we did a great job today and it just didn’t work out,” he added.