Lewis Hamilton says he went against Mercedes advice to not push for the fastest lap point in F1 French GP with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel having a free stop.
From pole, Hamilton made a solid start in F1 French GP at Circuit Paul Ricard and led every lap to register his fourth consecutive win and sixth in all of the 2019 season from the eight races so far in another Mercedes 1-2. The British was all in to go for the grand slam.
He had pole, lead every lap and scored the win, a fastest lap would have gotten him the grand slam of the weekend but for Vettel’s final lap push on the soft compound which got him his first fastest lap of the 2019 F1 season with a 1m32.740s lap.
In fact, Hamilton took the fastest lap from Valtteri Bottas on his final lap on the blistered tyres with a 1m32.764s, but he was beaten by 0.024s as Vettel got purple Sector 1 and Sector 3 which was enough despite registering a poor Sector 2 on his quickest lap.
Post-race, Hamilton revealed that Mercedes did ask him to not bother about the fastest lap as Vettel had the free stop – one of the radio message was aired on the F1 world feed. But Hamilton went for it like Bottas had done during the Australian GP.
Hamilton also talked about his broken seat and a slight twitch he had at the start of the F1 grand prix. “I’d still say it was relatively eventful,” said Hamilton. “I think something broke in my seat – like one of the seat stays.
“So as I was going through one of the corners, all of a sudden the thing kind of dropped and was moving around a little bit. Anyways, the race start was good, then the first couple of laps with the tyres, it was not so easy. I don’t know how it was for the other guys.
“But I was sliding around a little bit at the beginning. After that I kinda got into my rhythm and it was quite comfortable. I was not expecting the medium tyre to go as far as it did but I was able to continue. The pit stop for sure, too early.
“I could have kept going for at least another five, maybe even ten laps, I had a lot of life left still in the tyres. And then we got onto the next tyre which felt good initially but then I got a lot of graining on the tyre. I was just really working on my craft.
“I was continuing to learn about this track, and where you can and can’t push; where you save, where you don’t save and all those kinds of things. With that, I started finding more and more time, and every time Valtteri and Charles got a good time in, I was a tenth or two ahead.
“So I just kept it consistent, and right at the end, I hadn’t really thought much about the fastest lap. Being that we know Vettel had a free stop, and so, the thing is, with me, my mentality is that it doesn’t matter whether they have a free stop, I’m still going to go for it.
“The team’s like: don’t even bother. And so, anyway, I came out of the last corner and half way down the straight I decided to go for it. I probably lost a little bit in power mode but, other than that, it was a really good lap.
“It’s always good to be able to push and eke more out of the car. It was a lot of drifting, because the tyres were quite old. I asked if anyone else was having blistering and they didn’t reply that Valtteri or anyone else was having the same.
“So I was a little bit nervous with that. Particularly as it started getting quite deep on the right side. And then it appeared on the left side, and I’m thinking: shoot. I remember last year Lance, I think it was, so in the Williams I guess had the tyre blow up in Turn 10.
“So, I was a little bit nervous for that. Even though I think we had the thin gauge tyre last year as well. I basically reduced a bit of my speed for a period of time where I wasn’t really leaning too heavily on the front tyre.
“Right at the end, the car’s at its lightest, and it’s only one lap, so I went for it and pushed a little bit more – but not really taking the cake. Fortunately it all held together and I just a little bit off. So we could definitely have had the fastest lap at the end there but anyways.”
Meanwhile, Vettel admitted that the lap wasn’t straightforward despite having the fresh compound and he actually waited for the final lap so that Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen doesn’t have the window to pit and take it away from Ferrari.
“It was pretty straightforward, its not the first time as we have seen a couple of times already, if you have the gap then you go an wait,” he said. “Obviously, if I had gone earlier then Max takes our invitation – that’s the advantage if you are behind with a gap behind.
“It was quite tight [in the end], I don’t know we seem to have a problem with discharging the battery on the final lap, so it was a bit strange. Otherwise, it should have been a bit more straightforward.”
Here’s how the F1 French GP panned out