How Lewis Hamilton slept at VSC

( – Lewis Hamilton does not have much experience with tenth places. Since joining Mercedes in 2013, he has only been down twice when he saw the checkered flag. In Barcelona 2013, he was promoted from P2 to P12 after qualifying due to deteriorating tires. And at Baku 2021, he made a driving mistake when he braked for the first turn at the restart and eventually finished in 15th place.

Sober: Lewis Hamilton in a duel with Kevin Magnussen in Haas


As he crossed the finish line in Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, 1:14 behind winner Max Verstappen and 9.6 seconds behind Kevin Magnussen im Haas, his racing engineer Peter Bonnington informed him: “Okay Lewis, it’s P10. Sorry about that. A shit. result taken into account all the hard work. ” Hamilton replied confused, “Is there a point to this position at all?”

15th place on the grid and then tenth in the race, these are regions that a seven-time world champion is not very familiar with. The last time he was regularly involved in such positions was in 2009, when McLaren-Mercedes was behind KERS in year 1. Hamilton finished outside the top 10 five times that season.

The race in Jeddah was not one of those Sundays where everything goes wrong and you end up far behind as a result. “The result,” says Hamilton, “was not so great. But the race went really well. The balance was actually very good. But our package is not fast enough. At the moment we are just not fighting for the lead.”

Starting from the pitlane was not a problem

Hamilton makes an effort to endure the situation bravely, at least externally – and analyzes the race as if his performance in it was quite normal. Before the race, there was speculation about a possible start from the pitlane. But, he says, it was never a problem for him: “We only took a few wings away. There were only 15 anyway.”

In the beginning, Hamilton was one of three drivers who risked leaving on the tough C2 together with Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg. The calculation was clear: A safety car phase should help to get “lane position”, and at best the speed is still good enough that you can somehow keep up with the front.

Thanks to Nicholas Latifi, the first part of the plan worked. Suddenly, Hamilton was sixth at the break, 4.3 seconds behind George Russell, who had started P6. Hamilton’s Hards were 16 laps ahead of Russells, and yet the difference grew by just three seconds over the next 12 laps.

“I felt good on the hard tires, was able to keep up with George. The times were good considering how old the tires were,” Hamilton says. “In the beginning, I struggled with the tire temperatures, but it got better and better the longer the stay lasted. When the media of the others started to degrade, I was able to catch up well.”

Hamilton was about seven seconds ahead of Magnussen-Haas when the race gave him and the virtual safety car was activated. His lead over Esteban Ocon was even twelve seconds. That would easily have been enough to keep the position despite the pit stop, because Magnussen also had to change tires again.

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Hamilton was about to drive through turn 20 when his racing engineer reported to him: “Ricciardo stopped just before the pit entrance. I remind you that you are in the VSC and safety car window. But be careful: the pit lane could be closed. “Which Hamilton remarked, ‘Then let me know, man!’

Shortly after, Hamilton slowed down. He was about to turn the last corner when Bonnington said, “Watch it.” And shortly thereafter: “Box, box. Box, box. Keep an eye on the pit entrance.” There stood Ricciardo. “The cars are slowing down,” Hamilton broadcast on the radio – and in the light of the green light after the Ricciardo situation, he stepped on the gas.

It was a mistake: “Box, Box. Box, Box,” Bonnington radioed again – and Hamilton did not even let him speak as he grumbled, “Ah! It’s too late now.” Magnussen and Hulkenberg drove behind him to the service. On the next lap, the pit entrance was already closed – and Hamilton had to pay the full price for the tire change when the race was released again.

Toto Wolff: It was clear that it would be difficult

“It would be a difficult afternoon for Lewis right from the start from P15,” said Toto Wolff. “The first safety car came too early to finish the race at Medium, so we stayed out. Then we missed the opportunity to pit just before the pit track closed below VSC, leaving us at a cost a few positions.”

Photo gallery: Formula 1 2022 Saudi Arabia: The most important thing on Sunday

Hamilton dropped from sixth to twelfth place, but on fresh medium decks he was able to overtake Alexander Albon and Lance Stroll to save a point. “It’s sober, but we got at least one point. And we got points with both cars,” he says.

Hamilton does not attribute external circumstances like the different set-up that he was behind Russell in both qualifying and the race. “Yesterday made the weekend so much harder, and I’ll take that on the cap,” he analyzes self-critically.

“We both feel the same in this car. He just did a better job in qualifying and in the race,” Hamilton said. And he knows: “We have a lot of work ahead of us, that’s for sure. But I know we have a great team. We just have to stay calm and try to improve.”

“Since the last race,” he continues, “not a whole lot has changed. It was only a few days. One thing is clear: I could not keep up with Haas in the end. They must have quite a lot of power. “When I passed Magnussen earlier in the race and he immediately passed me again.”

In the World Cup, Hamilton is already 29 points behind overall leader Charles Leclerc after two of 23 scheduled races. That means he can not even mathematically take the lead at the Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton is in P5 with 16 points. He has not started a season so badly since 2009.

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