A fifth place was welcomed with a half smile at the end of a weekend that started off negatively. This is the summary of Lewis Hamilton’s weekend, who managed to place himself between the two Ferraris at Suzuka, also playing strategy to divide the two Reds.
For the Mercedes Englishman, the start immediately proved chaotic due to contact with Sergio Perez while he was trying to overtake him on the left. Furthermore, still in an attempt to overtake the Mexican, Hamilton ended up wide on the curb of turn two, losing position to Fernando Alonso, who did well to take advantage of the situation to climb to sixth place. After the necessary checks, both thanks to the sensors scattered along the car and to the images, the engineers ascertained that there was no damage to either the front wing or the bottom, thus being able to continue.
At the restart the Englishman immediately clashed with his teammate, George Russell, exchanging seventh position on two occasions between the last chicane and turn one. This also gave Fernando Alonso, who had started on the soft tyre, a small margin to stretch and breathe. Hamilton then began to close the gap on the Spaniard but, having some difficulty in overtaking, Mercedes began to evaluate the possibilities available to it, even suggesting a stop in case the driver had not stopped, in order to complete an undercut.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
The Silverstone team’s choice to rejoin gave Hamilton the opportunity to find himself two seconds behind Sainz, but a mistake in turn nine due to excessive understeer pushed the seven-time world champion towards his teammate again, with the two who did not spare themselves at Spoon. Hamilton was the first to stop, returning on the hard tire five seconds behind Leclerc and two and a half behind Sainz, who remained on the track longer on the old tyre.
After weaving through traffic, overtaking Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, Hamilton found himself around three seconds behind the two Ferraris, with a gap that then progressively widened until it stabilized at around four seconds. Also diversifying the strategy between the two W14s, and knowing that Ferrari would not be able to do a double stack, Mercedes decided to try an undercut on Sainz, which then proved effective, thus bringing the Englishman ahead of the Cavallino driver.
In the final stretch of the race, Hamilton also attempted a comeback on Charles Leclerc, hoping for help from his teammate, who had remained out for a long time attempting a single stop. However, the moment the Monegasque overtook Russell with a nice maneuver in turn two, his dreams of a comeback were extinguished, as he actually had to watch his back from Sainz’s return. In fact, in the final laps, Russell slowed down the seven-time world champion, thus giving the Spaniard the opportunity to get closer. Overtaking attempts then prompted Mercedes to impose team order, although Hamilton is certain that order should have come sooner.
“We should have switched [le posizioni] before and I should have run as far forward as possible to maintain the gap on the Ferrari. I think if we had switched positions earlier, maybe George would have been able to keep it [Sainz] behind, but since he was trying to fight with me he was damaging his tyres, I think the situation got complicated. The fact is that we are not fighting each other in the teams championship, as drivers it doesn’t matter where we are. The important thing is that one of us finishes in front of the Ferrari to maintain the position [nel costruttori]. So today we really had to work as a team.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
One of the possible ideas suggested by Russell and the team was to provide DRS to defend on the main straight. A strategy that, according to Lewis Hamilton, would not have worked: “I don’t think it was a good idea at all. When they proposed it to me I knew they had already thought about it from the previous race and it didn’t make sense. I needed to get away and went on my way. I had about a two second lead and they asked me to give George the DRS, so I had to slow down. He got the DRS but was still overtaken, which would have happened anyway because he was on one stop, we were on two. But then him [Sainz] he passed him and was right behind me, so yeah, it wasn’t ideal. It was very difficult in the last two laps, but I think, as a team, we have to be grateful for a fifth and seventh place. It’s better than a sixth and seventh place.”
Hamilton admitted he was harsh on his teammate, but believes it was necessary, as he also said his performance was affected somewhat by a collision with Sergio Perez at the first corner. “I was definitely aggressive, but I think it was a good race. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been in that position,” explained the Englishman, referring to the initial contact with Perez.
“On the track I struggled to find the balance. But it was a good fight, a little aggressive, but that’s what we needed to get the position.”
Regardless of this situation, Hamilton is satisfied with fifth place: “It was the best I could do today, I think. I think if I hadn’t been hit at the start maybe we could have fought for fourth place, but the Ferraris were quite fast. But I’m grateful to have finished in front of a Ferrari.”
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