Lewis Hamilton knows good fortune in Baku cannot mask Mercedes’ failings

• Reigning world champion profited from luck to win GP
• ‘The car has pace but we are not unlocking it,’ says Briton

After inheriting an unexpected win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton has warned his team that he cannot rely on similar good fortune in his title defence against Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton won in Baku after a dramatic finale prompted by a late safety car. His team-mate Valtteri Bottas led on the restart, with Vettel in second and the British driver in third. Vettel was too hot into turn one, locked up and ultimately finished fourth. Hamilton moved up to second and then took the lead two laps from the end when Bottas was eliminated after a puncture.

The result was a remarkable turnaround which was also reflected in the championship, with Vettel’s nine‑point lead becoming a four‑point deficit to Hamilton. But the defending world champion was off the pace and he stressed that Mercedes have work to do in order to take the fight to Ferrari.

So far Hamilton has only truly enjoyed an advantage over Vettel in Melbourne. In China a safety car intervention and an accident for Vettel fell to the British driver’s advantage as did events in Baku and Hamilton cautioned that Mercedes need more than luck this season.

“Being in the lead of the championship is great,” he said. “But if we were to continue on the trajectory we are on, it would need tricky races like this. There have been two weird races that have kept us in the mix but you can’t rely on those for the next 17. We need ultimate performance and confidence in the car. I have the pace within me and the car has the pace within it that we are not unlocking.”

Bottas was disconsolate after the race and Hamilton revealed that he was delayed in arriving at the podium because he had gone to console his team-mate. “He had put on a great race, drove exceptionally well,” Hamilton said. “I know how difficult it is when you think you are going to win and it gets taken away from you. So out of respect I thought I would try and lift him up a little bit.”

Hamilton was subdued in his celebrations and acknowledged that he would rather be winning on merit. “There are days when I have lost a grand prix and it has been gifted to someone one else,” he said. “Some drivers that are here or ones that have left, they gloat, it doesn’t matter whether they have earned it or not, they have their fingers up in the air but I am wired differently. I like to win because I have outsmarted, outwitted and outclassed every driver out there.”

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

Vettel, who started from pole, explained that he did not regret the move that cost him places because he was confident in the car. “The most important thing is we have a good car, a car we can work with in qualifying. If we put it in the front, we can fight for wins,” the German said.

“I am not worried at all because it is quite different to last year when in qualifying we were not competitive enough for most of the year and then later in the year we were not competitive enough to make things happen. The car is there and we need to make sure it stays there.”


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes communication must improve before China
The world champion, Lewis Hamilton, says he will discuss the communication problems he has had with his Mercedes team before the third race of the season in China at the weekend

Giles Richards

09, Apr, 2018 @2:41 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton expects F1 title boost from Mercedes upgrades in Austria
Mercedes will race with improved aerodynamics at the Austrian Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton said: ‘The guys are working harder to bring quality’

Giles Richards in Spielberg

28, Jun, 2018 @5:49 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton knows how to apply the pressure to Sebastian Vettel | Giles Richards
Ferrari appear to have the edge in terms of engine speed but something was lost over the radio for Kimi Räikkönen at Hockenheim

Giles Richards

24, Jul, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton on top but Mercedes face uphill battle to match Ferrari | Giles Richards
How Mercedes fare in Barcelona will be telling – they must work the tyres at the correct temperature to unlock performance

Giles Richards

30, Apr, 2018 @9:45 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton relishing the pressure of Formula One title battle
World championship leader Lewis Hamilton has a 17-point lead over Sebastian Vettel and expects an intense challenge for the title

Giles Richards

26, Jul, 2018 @7:47 PM

Article image
Imperious Lewis Hamilton has Formula One history in his sights | Giles Richards
Lewis Hamilton, the defending champion, has all the tools for a fifth world title but Sebastian Vettel will never shy away from a fight

Giles Richards in Melbourne

23, Mar, 2018 @1:26 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton defends Sebastian Vettel over ‘lives on the line’ incident
The F1 championship leader said collisions are bound to happen when drivers are pushing to the limit

Giles Richards

25, Jun, 2018 @11:31 AM

Article image
Hamilton hoping for end to Mercedes tyre issues at pivotal Azerbaijan GP
Formula One world champion, Lewis Hamilton, believes his Mercedes can be at full strength in Baku if the team can sort out their troubling tyre issues

Giles Richards

27, Apr, 2018 @5:41 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton delighted after Hungarian win extends title lead
Lewis Hamilton has extended his Formula One championship lead going into the summer break with victory at the Hungaroring

Giles Richards at the Hungaroring

29, Jul, 2018 @7:32 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix but is unhappy with team orders
Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix after Mercedes’ team orders enabled him to pass Valtteri Bottas and extend his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to 50 points

Giles Richards

30, Sep, 2018 @1:19 PM