F1: Lewis Hamilton describes chassis claims as ‘a myth’ as he takes front-row spot ahead of French Grand Prix

Paul Di Resta had suggested the world champion would be regretting Mercedes’ decision to switch chassis with Valtteri Bottas’ car.

Philip Duncan
Saturday 19 June 2021 20:33
<p>France F1 GP Auto Racing</p>

France F1 GP Auto Racing

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on the front row alongside championship rival Max Verstappen for Sunday’s French Grand Prix – and then branded Sky Sports’ pundit Paul Di Resta’s claim that he wanted his old chassis back as a “myth”.

Ahead of the seventh round of the season in the south of France Mercedes switched Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ chassis around in what the world champions called a planned rotation of parts to even out the mileage on their two cars.

But the unusual move has raised eyebrows in the paddock. Hamilton’s former team-mate Nico Rosberg claimed such a scenario never occurred during his time alongside Hamilton at the Silver Arrows – for the record, Mercedes say it did – while Di Resta, who competed in 59 grands prix, claimed in commentary during Friday practice that the British driver would be ruing his team’s decision.

It is understood that Hamilton watched a replay of Sky’s coverage on Friday evening and took umbrage with Di Resta’s remarks.

Di Resta was then handed the duty of conducting the post-qualifying interviews.

Moments after stepping out of his Mercedes machine, Hamilton, who qualified 0.258 seconds behind pole-sitter Verstappen’s Red Bull, said: “I saw you coming up with some myth so I was happy to be able to prove it wrong and prove the quality of our engineers’ work.”

Later, the Briton, 36, added: “I heard yesterday that Paul was saying something about the chassis, and questioning whether they were the same. But you could see today I could do a great job with this car, so it is no different.

Auto – Formula One Motor Racing – Spanish Grand Prix – Practice – Circuit de Catalunya

“It is not just a case of putting the car on track and it working everywhere.

“I am proud of my team for keeping their heads down and not getting too shaken up by all the commotion that has been going on in the background, and instead trying to get the car where it needs to be.”

Hamilton has bossed the past two editions of the French GP at the Paul Ricard circuit, winning both rounds from pole, but the seven-time world champion has not had an answer for the pace of Verstappen here.

However, given his troubles in practice – where he failed to finish higher than third and was slower than team-mate Bottas – Hamilton will take comfort from joining his title rival on the front row. Rain is also on the radar for Sunday’s race.

Nevertheless it is Verstappen who heads into Sunday’s race as the favourite to extend his four-point advantage after claiming his fifth career pole.

Hamilton, who finished only seventh in Monaco and then out of the points in Baku, added: “It has been a really, really hard weekend, mentally, trying to get the car into a happy place.

“You wouldn’t believe how many changes we have made. Going round and round and chasing our tail. But we have got a race on our hands, we are loving the battle, and we are going to keep pushing, keep fighting to give it everything.

“We’ve got a fighting chance into Turn 1, and maybe it will rain, so potentially you will get to see the rain meisters do their thing.”

Bottas lines up behind his team-mate, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez fourth and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly starting fifth and sixth.