Nico Rosberg hits out at Valtteri Bottas for ‘rubbish job’ in Max Verstappen battle

F1 preview: A lap of the French Grand Prix

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Nico Rosberg has defended Mercedes’ tactics at the French Grand Prix and criticised Valtteri Bottas for allowing both Red Bull drivers to pass him in the race. Mercedes were widely questioned for their tactics at Le Castellet, but Rosberg believes some of the blame lies with the team’s second driver, Bottas.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen moved 12 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship with his third win of the season on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton finished second, ahead of Sergio Perez in third and Bottas in fourth as Red Bull opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Constructors’ Championship.

Verstappen had given up the lead with a mistake at the first corner but the 23-year-old battled back to pass Hamilton and Bottas to take the chequered flag.

Mercedes’ call to only pit its drivers once, compared to Red Bull’s two, was highlighted after the race, but 2016 world champion Rosberg defended his former team’s decision.

“As a driver you can’t judge a situation out there,” he told Sky Sports.

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“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 [it] 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.”

While Rosberg was critical of Bottas, Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles conceded on the team radio that “this one’s on us”.

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After a seven-year period of dominance, Mercedes are facing a period of reckoning, with Red Bull top of the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 2013.

There have been allegations that Red Bull’s recent success is down to an illegal flexible rear wing and tyre pressures, but Hamilton was not making excuses on Sunday.

“Those guys are just too quick now,” said the seven-time world champion.

“They have taken a big step this weekend. We are losing three-and-a-half tenths just on the straights, so I think they have made some sort of improvement.

“We’ve got to figure out whether it’s just rear wing or engine. Either way, we’ve got to improve.

“If he hadn’t made a mistake in the beginning, the result would have been the same. We are quite slow in a straight line.”

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