Lewis Hamilton Image Credit: AFP

LE CASTELLET: Lewis Hamilton said he is happy with Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff’s “open and critical” approach to team meetings — and admitted he was “very average” at the Canadian Grand Prix.

In Montreal, Hamilton, the reigning champion driving on one of his favourite circuits, finished only fourth as rival Sebastian Vettel, in a Ferrari, won and took over as leader of the title race.

Mercedes, who won the constructors title last year, have struggled for consistency this year.

“We can do better, we can all squeeze more juice out of ourselves and out of the car,” he said. “Montreal was a very, very average weekend performance-wise.

“I think we’ve got to make sure we are in tip-top shape moving forward. We had really good meetings afterwards, people were openly critical of themselves and there were great discussions where the team was able to be open with each other and say honestly, ‘this could be better.’

“About each other as well — and things that I know I can do better, which I’m planning to do.”

He said this open approach was instigated by Wolff.

“It is something the guys all do, so when they have their big meetings back at the factory they are very, very openly critical.

“I mean the engineers can sometimes get sensitive. They are like, ‘oh, you can’t say that,’ but like, ‘no, I thought we said we’re in that comfort zone, you can say what you want’ ...”

He conceded that his own form was not good enough and he was not ‘showing my true potential.’

“We’re only seven races in,” he said. “So there’s still a long way to go and for us we all acknowledge that we can do better.”

Hamilton, who has yet to commit to a new contract with Mercedes, is one point behind four-time champion German Vettel ahead of Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

Hamilton was fastest for Mercedes in the first practice for the first French GP in a decade with the session halted after Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson suffered a fiery crash.

The Briton complained about his car’s handling over the radio but still put in a best time of one minute 32.231 seconds.

His Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, also with a new Mercedes engine in his car, was second fastest in 1:32.371 as France made its return to the F1 calendar for the first time since 2008.

The 90 minute-session was red-flagged with a minute remaining when Ericsson lost control at the Beausset corner, spun and hit the barriers hard, with the Sauber car then catching fire.