Le Castellet, France | AFP | Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a chance to poke fun at rivals Ferrari on Saturday, suggesting they need to concentrate more on their racing than the complex appeals system of Formula One.
After searing to his record 86th pole position on an afternoon of sizzling heat at the Le Castellet circuit, in the process helping secure a 63rd front row lockout for Mercedes at this weekend’s French Grand Prix, the defending five-time world champion was in a playful mood.
He said he had arrived late on Thursday evening, after attending a memorial event for fashion designer Karl Lagerfield in Paris, and was concerned that he was out of kilter with his normal weekend routine.
But that worry, he said, was wiped away on Friday once he had learned that Ferrari’s new evidence in their bid to overturn the result of the Canadian Grand Prix depended mainly on an analysis video made for Sky Sports.
“When I arrived in the morning, I heard it was Karun Chandhok’s video that was the new evidence and I was pretty relaxed after that,” he explained with a broad smile.
Earlier on Friday morning, he had used social media to express his worries about what lay ahead of him as he lay wide awake and sleepless in the small hours.
Ahead of their hearing with the Canada race stewards, Ferrari had said that their new evidence was “overwhelming” proof that Sebastian Vettel had not broken any rules when he rejoined after running off-circuit and across a strip of grass.
But the stewards rejected the evidence and thus confirmed that Hamilton was the victor in Montreal. Ferrari said the outcome was a dark day for the sport.
Hamilton said: “If it was me, I would want my team concentrating on the race. Ferrari were spending a lot of time focusing on something else. Me, and my team, were focused on trying to improve the car.”
He added that he was growing increasingly confident in his Mercedes car, but dismissed any suggestions that after easing to a 29-point lead in the title race he was virtually unrivalled.
“I do feel strong, but each weekend I come in and feel I’m starting on the right foot, Valtteri (Bottas) goes and puts in bloody good laps every time. I’m constantly being pushed by Valtteri.
“There’s some races where we as a team are not being pushed certainly as hard as we’d like to be by the others, but the battle within us is, if you look at a lot of the races, half a 10th to a 10th.
“I still have my work cut out, still have to perform and deliver. So the work ethic is exactly the same and the stress is exactly the same as if we were fighting the Ferraris.”
Hamilton won last year’s French Grand Prix from pole position and has triumphed at five of seven races this year.
Team-mate Bottas, who was fastest in practice on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, was second ahead of Charles Leclerc of Ferrari. Vettel, in the second Ferrari, was seventh and said he could not explain his loss of pace and form.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “In the end, I didn’t get the best out of the car, which is not satisfactory.”