By Carol M. Creasey
Sir Lewis Hamilton was once again the centre of controversy when he arrived at Paul Ricard sporting bright green boots, and a matching t-shirt. He is a man with his own individual style, which cannot be ignored.
In the French Grand Prix Free Practice 1 he finished second to his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, his time three tenths behind, with Max Verstappen a further tenth away from him. In second free practice it was Verstappen who topped the timesheets, behind him Bottas, and then Sir Lewis. In spite of being nearer to their best, Sir Lewis said the car did not feel much better than it did in Baku, complaining of a lack of grip and a slippery surface. Indeed, during practice there had been off moments for Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen, which was blamed on lack of grip.
Third practice was even harder for him, and he ended up fifth. Although in the past Mercedes have been amazing on this track, the superior speed of Red Bull was apparent, which meant both Mercedes drivers were going to have to really fight for position.
During qualifying, both Red Bull and Mercedes drivers kept swopping top position in Q1 and Q2, but by the time Q3 arrived, Verstappen made his mark and, in spite of their very best efforts, Sir Lewis and Bottas had to settle for second and third, with Perez fourth. Sir Lewis was just over two tenths behind Verstappen, but this result was heartening for Mercedes after the disaster of the last two races. Both Mercedes drivers vowed to fight on race day as hard as they could.
On race day it was cloudy, rain was forecasted, but never came. At the start Verstappen didn’t make the apex of Turn 1, so Sir Lewis took the opportunity to pass him. Bottas pitted first on lap 18, and then Verstappen.
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Mercedes pitted the Briton on lap 19, but unfortunately Verstappen managed to get past before he emerged from the pits. With Verstappen now in the lead, it was up to Sir Lewis to fight back. He continued to run close to the Dutchman, hassling him, doing his best to pressurise him into making a mistake.
Verstappen became very nervous at this point, and was asked by his team to calm down. Red Bull brought him in for another pit stop, and fitted used medium tyres on lap 32. Sir Lewis was asked by his team how he felt about stopping, and it was jointly decided that he would stay out to try and keep the lead by making his tyres last as long as possible.
He fought valiantly right to the very end, but was then overtaken by Verstappen on the penultimate lap of the race. Sergio Perez was able to overtake Bottas to complete the podium.
Afterwards Sir Lewis congratulated Verstappen and said he was pleased to have made second place. It was clear all weekend that Mercedes are struggling with straight line speed, so he stated that they will be looking into why this is.
It is evident that Sir Lewis is giving it his all to try and compensate for having the slower car, so it seems the rest of the season will be just as nail biting as today.
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