Damon Hill has backed Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to "spring a surprise" at the French Grand Prix and beat Red Bull and Ferrari to victory. Red Bull and Ferrari have shared the 11 race victories so far this season, with the frontrunners enjoying a clear advantage over Mercedes and the rest of the field. However, after working through plenty of early-season issues – particularly porpoising – Mercedes have been edging closer to the front at recent events. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have racked up seven podiums between them so far, including three from Hamilton in the last three races.
Hill tips Hamilton and Mercedes to surprise
With Paul Ricard known for its "billiard table" track surface, and Mercedes faring well at smoother circuits such as Barcelona and Silverstone earlier this season, Hill expects plenty from the Silver Arrows this weekend. "It's a smooth track, brilliant for aerodynamics," the 1996 World Champion said on the F1 Nation podcast. "This may help Mercedes if they haven't fixed their porpoising or they need to get that car low to the ground." Pushed for his predictions, Hill said: "I'm gonna go Lewis Hamilton. "I think there's going to be an incident. I think that first corner is a bit tricky, the little chicane thing. Let's say Charles [Leclerc] loses his front wing, or Max [Verstappen] gets a puncture or something like that. "Maybe even on pure pace, the Mercedes springs a surprise, because I think in their race trim Lewis has been on occasions very, very quick. "It could even be Lewis first, George second and Carlos Sainz third. How about that?"
Berger unsure about Hill's prediction
Host Tom Clarkson agreed with Hill, adding: "I think Mercedes are gonna let rip this weekend and be really impressive, and we're going to see Lewis Hamilton back to his best. "So Hamilton first... God, can you imagine if we had Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc all going for the win?" Hill and Clarkson's predictions led Gerhard Berger – also present on the podcast – to jokingly suggest that the pair had been "drinking". "No, I wouldn't go that far," said the 10-time Grand Prix winner, when asked if he thinks Hamilton and Mercedes can fight for victory at Paul Ricard. "The Mercedes didn't work really well anywhere this year. It could be maybe a bit better, but I don't think it will go so much in this direction that they suddenly are going to play a role to win the race. "Let's put Max winning the race, [followed by] Leclerc and Sainz."