Lewis Hamilton has insisted he can still challenge for a win this season after his performance at the Dutch Grand Prix, despite his anger and frustration at his Mercedes team’s strategic call which cost him a chance to claim victory in Zandvoort.
The seven-time champion delivered several swear-heavy messages to his team as his run in the Netherlands collapsed, dropping him from a header to finish fourth. He later apologized 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 propelled Hamilton to victory.
The Mercedes have 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 intervention from the safety car, Hamilton delivered a genuinely competitive race pace, which he believed could be converted into victory.
The seven-time world champion remains the only driver to claim 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 Continue. “We have so many positives to take from this weekend. Yes, I was fourth at the end, but the car felt good,” he said. “If the car behaves like this in the other races, we will fight for victory and that’s incredible.”
He also confirmed that his mercurial Mercedes W13 may be running better than it has all season. “We had rhythm. The car was different than it had been all year,” he said. “When I came second I had this hard tire and I was catching them and thinking, ‘We could fight for a win here and potentially a double’.”
However, his optimism at Zandvoort was undermined when the team left him on older, slower tires and his rivals all found themselves under the safety car for fresh rubber towards the end of the race. Hamilton was left vulnerable and was passed by Verstappen, Mercedes team-mate George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Victory for Verstappen, who rivaled Hamilton so closely and finally claimed his first title in the final race last season, put him on course to claim a second championship sooner or later this year. .
The Dutchman is now 109 points clear of Leclerc and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez, with seven games to go and 190 points available. The next race will take place at Monza on Sunday and Verstappen could now complete it in two or three meetings in Singapore or Japan.
Hamilton conceded he missed the battle at the front of the grid. “I mean, I’m dying to get back into this race and have the opportunity to fight, but the day hasn’t come yet,” he said. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he was sensitive to Hamilton’s need to vent his frustration during the race, although the British driver very rarely publicly criticized their decisions as vehemently as he did. in Zandvoort.
Wolff believed Mercedes had to accept their drivers being passionate when under pressure on the track, especially this season when they are struggling so hard to stay with the leaders.
“You get emotional, me too in racing and when you’re the driver of the car it goes out of you and you can’t even stop it,” he said. “We are the garbage can, the sick bag on the plane and we take it all because we need it. That’s how it’s always been in a relationship between a frustrated pilot and the pit wall.”
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