Lewis Hamilton says it was “pointless” to put up too aggressive a defence against a charging Max Verstappen during the closing stages of Formula 1’s French Grand Prix.
Hamilton stayed out on a one-stop strategy at Circuit Paul Ricard after erstwhile leader Verstappen opted to come in for a second stop.
Verstappen reeled in and passed Valtteri Bottas before closing in on Hamilton through the final laps.
Verstappen made the move on the approach to the chicane on the penultimate lap in order to prise victory from Hamilton.
Explaining the pass, Hamilton 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, if he didn’t pass me there he would have passed me on the straight afterwards so it made zero difference.
“And I had no front end so he would have got me either way, so it was pointless to defend any harder.
“I think you saw what happened with Valtteri [Bottas], just ended up going straight on, so there’s no point messing up the tyres any more.”
Hamilton suggested Mercedes could have taken victory with a two-stop strategy but reckoned it was only in contention courtesy of Verstappen’s first-lap off.
“I’m sure if we look in hindsight, for sure if we had stopped earlier – before they stopped – and come out ahead, just gone onto a two-stop, we probably could have won the race,” he said.
“But it would have still been very difficult, their pace was generally very, very strong.
“I was able to keep him at bay when he was behind me, but if he had not made the mistake in Turn 1 then they would have just led the race all the way probably.”