Retired Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg did not mince his words when he criticised former Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for ‘soft’ defending against Red Bull in the closing stages of Sunday’s French Grand Prix.
Rosberg, at Le Castellet as a pundit for Sky Sports television, took aim after both were passed by race winner and championship leader Max Verstappen.
“Valtteri did a rubbish job, honestly, in defending because he blocked completely unnecessarily, he braked way too late and went straight on so Max had such an easy time getting past,” Rosberg told viewers.
“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 could have been done in a much more smart way.”
Verstappen had made a second pitstop and had to pass Bottas, then running second, in order to reel in and overtake the Finn’s seven-times world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton for the win.
When Verstappen caught up with Hamilton and made a move on the penultimate lap, the Briton did not offer much resistance either on tyres worn down to the limit.
“Close the damn door, no?” said 2016 champion Rosberg of Hamilton’s reaction. “Usually Lewis is the best one-to-one racer and I’m surprised he didn’t try. At least try, brake late and try to keep him on the outside. A bit soft there from Lewis, somehow.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner complimented Hamilton, however: “I have to say Lewis was very fair with the pass, he didn’t defend hard or aggressively and it was a very clean move.”
Hamilton, who was runner-up on a one-stop strategy, explained there was little he could have done: “If he didn´t pass me there, he would have passed me on 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. I think you saw what happened to Valtteri — he just ended up going straight on. So, there was no point messing up the tyres anymore,” added the Briton. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)