Nico Rosberg and Sky F1 pundits on French GP: Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen and Mercedes 'mistake'
Nico Rosberg, Karun Chandhok and Paul Di Resta discuss the key talking points from the French GP as Max Verstappen wins, and Red Bull ace strategy, to pour pressure on Mercedes in F1 title battle; Rosberg criticises Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas' defence
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 21/06/21 1:50pm
Nico Rosberg believes Mercedes were made to pay for strategy mistakes at the French GP while he also questioned Lewis Hamilton's "unusual" and "soft" defence from Max Verstappen, as the Sky Sports F1 pundits dissected a gripping race at Paul Ricard.
Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, and fellow former Formula 1 drivers Karun Chandhok and Paul Di Resta discussed the key talking points from the seventh race of the season, which has seen Verstappen and Red Bull extend their title advantages over Hamilton and Mercedes.
- Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to win after late overtake
- Hamilton's Red Bull admission | Mercedes explain early stop
- 'You called him an idiot!' Rosberg, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly
Could Mercedes have gone for a different strategy? Are Red Bull now the team to beat? And what about those decisive wheel-to-wheel battles? The race in France delivered plenty topics of contention...
Rosberg questions Mercedes strategy
Mercedes' decision to only pit Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas once, with a two-stopping Verstappen eventually going on to win, was certainly key to the race. Toto Wolff said the team essentially had no option but to stop when they did for the first stop - after which Verstappen undercut Hamilton - while Hamilton says a one-stop race was his "only option".
But Rosberg said of his former team: "I think there some rather big mistakes from Mercedes on strategy."
Rosberg, who also highlighted Verstappen's mistake at the start of the race, believes Red Bull's form is forcing Mercedes - who have won seven straight team and drivers' titles - into them.
"This is absolutely awesome, that battle with Mercedes and Red Bull," he added. "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 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."
Did Red Bull leave Merc fighting a 'nothing battle'?
Di Resta, however, believes Red Bull's strategy - two-stopping with a mighty-fast Verstappen and extending Perez for a quick one-stop - left Mercedes with nowhere to go with their two drivers.
"I think Red Bull played a blinder," said Di Resta, who admitted Mercedes needed to "get their act together". "They extended Perez's stint so he had fresher tyres at the end of the Grand Prix.
"I think that's where Mercedes were fighting almost a nothing battle, because of where Red Bull placed themselves."
Chandhok also defended Mercedes, but said the 2021 title battle will come down to "who cracks less".
"There's still elements of the last seven years where they have been under pressure," he stated. "But this is the first time consistently across a season and we've seen a couple of cracks... but they've also got it right.
"The reality is now when we've all taken a breath, these are two teams and drivers under high pressure, and we're going to see some cracks. And it's just who cracks less."
Rosberg to Hamilton: 'Close the damn door'
Verstappen hunted down Hamilton towards the end of the race and was at least a second-per-lap faster than the seven-time world champion on his fresh tyres. His overtake came on the penultimate lap, darting down the inside of the chicane when aided by DRS on the straight.
But Rosberg, who's had his fair share of wheel-to-wheel battles with his former team-mate, felt Hamilton didn't put up enough a fight.
"Unusual from Lewis," he said. "Close the damn door.
"Usually Lewis is the best one-to-one racer and I'm surprised he didn't try... at least try. Brake late, keep him on the outside... so a bit soft there from Lewis."
Hamilton himself said: "Firstly, there's marbles on the inside, so I didn't want to make my tyres any worse than they already were. He had the DRS open, so if he didn't pass me there, he would have passed me the straight afterwards, so it would have made zero difference and I just had no front end, so he would have got me either way.
"It was pointless to defend any harder."
Karun also contested that Hamilton's tyres were a "long, long, long way past their best".
"Valtteri was erratic on team radio, saying we should have done a two-stop etc, yet Lewis was delivering pace, sometimes a second faster than Bottas," said Chandhok.
"That shows to me a guy who's still hungry to win, still trying to execute the best strategy he has under the circumstances. It's impressive."
Rosberg on Bottas' frustration and Max defence
Rosberg also had his say on Bottas' frustration over Mercedes' strategy, with the team not pitting him again despite his struggles. Bottas eventually finished fourth after being overtaken by both Red Bulls.
But Rosberg defended his former team, and criticised Bottas, on this occasion.
"As a driver you can't judge a situation out there," said Rosberg. "So the team has to make a decision and it was the right decision because they had to keep it out there just to try and protect the win.
"It's just that Valtteri did a rubbish job honestly in defending [from Verstappen], because he blocked completely unnecessarily, he braked way too late and went straight on, so Max had such an easy time getting past.
"Maybe he would have got past anyway but at least cost him a bit more lap time. It was not a very good way of defending and it could have been done in a much more smart way."