Lewis Hamilton hails atmosphere at Mercedes after poor form in Germany

• Briton welcomes possibility of teaming up with Max Verstappen
• Mercedes produce worst collective result since July 2018

Lewis Hamilton has praised what he describes as a uniquely open and honest atmosphere at his Mercedes team that has enabled them to move on after a poor performance at the German Grand Prix.

Before this weekend’s race in Hungary the British driver also said he would potentially welcome driving alongside Max Verstappen at Mercedes, as it would enable him to prove his driving rather than the car makes the difference.

Hamilton finished 11th on the track at the last round in Germany, although he was promoted to ninth after both Alfa Romeos were penalised. He had spun off twice at Hockenheim, the first time hitting the wall, when the team had him on slicks as the rain returned. He damaged his front wing, requiring an immediate pitstop for which his team were not prepared.

Mercedes admitted they had been found wanting in their strategy, while Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, crashed out at turn one while in fourth. Collectively it was their worst result since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018.

He and the team analysed everything that happened together and have emerged stronger. “It is super, super open, it is the best working environment,” he said. “I don’t think any team have the openness we have and I truly believe that is why we are able to move on. A lot of people shy away from being open or asking questions, here you can say absolutely everything and not have a filter. It means we advance so much faster. It is because of the philosophy that [team principal] Toto [Wolff] brings, it makes it easier to work and the same with [chief strategist] James Vowles, it transfers all the way down.”

Having scored two points for ninth, Hamilton extended his championship lead over Bottas to 41 points. However, Verstappen has won two of the last three races. The Dutchman is 63 points behind Hamilton in third, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel a further 21 back in fourth.

Max Verstappen has been linked with a potential move to race alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Max Verstappen has been linked with a potential move to race alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

Photograph: Andrej Isaković/AFP/Getty Images

With Bottas’s contract up at the end of this season, a potential move by the 21-year-old Verstappen to Mercedes has been posited. It seems highly unlikely to happen but Hamilton said he did not fear having Formula One’s young charge alongside him.

“I don’t know how that dynamic would work for the team, I am not saying it would or not, I see positives and potential negatives,” he said. “In some ways it would work well for me. I see stories that we have different cars and that is the only way [I beat him], so that would give me the opportunity to show that is not the case.”

Hamilton confirmed he had largely recovered from the bug that affected him in Germany. He had been so unwell before Friday practice the team considered withdrawing him from the race but he managed to continue.

“I am going to be 100% by the weekend,” he said at the Hungaroring. “I still need a bit more rest but I definitely feel in much better fighting shape. I am looking forward to getting back in the car, which is completely different to how I felt last Friday, when getting in the car was not a good thing.”

Reports in Hungary suggest next year the F1 calendar will expand to 22 races. This season there have been 21 meetings and in 2020 new races are already confirmed for the Netherlands and Vietnam.

Germany and Spain had been expected to fall from the calendar but it is believed Spain has done a one-off deal to host the race in Barcelona again next season. Mexico’s contract is up this year but is also expected to remain on the calendar. “22 races, that’s a lot of races,” said Hamilton, appearing somewhat daunted.


Giles Richards at the Hungaroring

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