But although Hamilton came home just 10 seconds adrift of the winning Red Bull after the 53-lap race, Mercedes said it remained realistic about just how big the deficit was to the front.
With Verstappen having been managing his tyres and not under much pressure from behind, Mercedes thinks that France did not offer a proper picture of how far off it is.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he felt the reality remained that Mercedes was around 0.4-0.5 seconds behind the top squads, team principal Toto Wolff said: “I think he [Hamilton] was able to stabilise the gap at five or six seconds in the first stint, but you need to be honest and say when they were racing each other in the second stint, probably Max was just keeping it on the track.
“So in my half empty glass perspective, there is still a lot of laptime to catch up.”
Mercedes had a confusing weekend in France as, on a weekend which it had headed to hoping to fight for the win, it was left further off the front than it had been at recent races.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Wolff reckoned that key now was the team getting to the bottom of why its French performance did not match expectations.
“I think with every lap, we collect more data and understand a little bit, so we’re putting the little pieces of the puzzle together,” he said. “It’s a process that’s sometimes difficult.”
What he was clear about, however, is that France showed that the Mercedes W13 is not good on single lap qualifying pace and it remains troublesome in terms of tyre warm-up.
“It’s simply not one thing: we’re lacking performance on a single lap and we are lacking performance at the initial stages of the stint,” he said.
“There is something to understand and it’s not a silver bullet but it’s a few topics that they roll in to our performance. Second and third is a good result but we work tirelessly to win and there is still a gap.”