Lewis Hamilton has insisted he can still fight for a win this season after his performance at the Dutch Grand Prix, despite his anger and frustration at his Mercedes team’s strategy call that cost him a shot at victory in Zandvoort.
The seven-time champion delivered several expletive-heavy messages to his team as his race in the Netherlands fell apart, dropping him from the lead to finish fourth . He later apologised to his team and the race was won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen but for the first time this season Mercedes’ original tactical plan and pace had put Hamilton in with a shout of taking a victory.
The Mercedes has been off the pace this season, a handful to drive and unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari. Yet on Sunday until a late safety car intervention Hamilton delivered genuinely competitive race pace, which he was optimistic could be converted to a win.
The seven-time world champion remains the only driver to have taken a victory in every season he has competed in F1 since his debut in 2007. With seven races remaining this season he felt it was a streak he could keep going. “We have got so many positives to take from this weekend. Yes, I got fourth in the end but the car felt great,” he said. “If the car feels like this at the other races we’re going to be fighting for a win and that’s amazing.”
He also confirmed that his mercurial Mercedes W13 was working perhaps better than it has all season. “We had pace. The car was different to how it had been all year long,” he said. “When I got up to second, I had that hard tyre on and I was catching them and I was thinking: ‘We might be fighting for a win here and potentially a one-two’.”
However his optimism at Zandvoort was undermined when the team left him out on older, slower tyres and his rivals all pitted under safety car for fresh rubber toward the end of the race. Hamilton was left vulnerable and was passed by Verstappen, his Mercedes teammate George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The win for Verstappen, who vied so closely with Hamilton and ultimately took his first title at the final race last season, ensured he is on course to secure a second championship sooner rather than later this year.
The Dutchman is now 109 points in front of Leclerc and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez, with seven meetings remaining and 190 points available. The next race is at Monza on Sunday and Verstappen could now wrap it up in two or three meetings’ time in Singapore or Japan.
Hamilton conceded he missed the battle at the front of the grid. “I mean, I’m dying to get back in that race and have the opportunity to fight but the day hasn’t come yet,” he said. The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, said he was sympathetic with Hamilton’s need to vent his frustration while racing, although the British driver has very rarely publicly criticised their decisions so vehemently as he did in Zandvoort.
Wolff believed Mercedes had to accept his drivers would be passionate when they were under pressure on track, especially this season when they are struggling so hard to stay with the leaders.
“You get emotional, I do too in the race and when you are the driver in the car, it just comes out of you and you can’t even stop it,” he said “We are the trash bin, the sick bag in the airplane and we are taking all of that because we need to. That is how it has always been in a relationship between frustrated driver and the pit wall.”