Mercedes laments car damage that cost Hamilton second


As Lewis Hamilton slips further behind championship leader Max Verstappen, Mercedes laments the damage to his car which cost him a podium finish.

As if things weren't bad enough, what with Max Verstappen cruising home to his fourth win in five races, on lap 52, suffering from damage incurred after running over the Red Bull Ring's unforgiving kerbs, Hamilton was told to move aside for his teammate.

Just a lap later, the seven-time world champion was passed by Lando Norris, the Mercedes driver unable to hold off the charging McLaren.

At race end, Hamilton and Toto Wolff were adamant that but for the damage to his car, second place was very much on the table.

"I already said before the race that it would be very hard to beat Max, of course," said the Mercedes driver. "But obviously it's frustrating to lose so much downforce on the rear of the car and not be able to hold on to second place. So a lot of points lost today.

"I would have been second," he insisted. "I was in second when all of a sudden it obviously broke.

"It would have been an easy second, generally," he added. "But obviously not able to catch those guys ahead."

"I think it was around lap 30 - out of Turn 10 - where there's a pretty aggressive kerb," Wolff told Sky Sports. "I don't think he was running particularly hard over the kerb, it was just a piece that fell away so we need to understand what happened.

"We didn't see that it was a driving mistake," he added, "it was pretty much the load that that occurred.

"We need to analyse why that was," he admitted. "We have calculated that we lost about 30 points (of downforce), but that is a number that is not checked yet.

"There was quite a loss in performance, and that meant he was pushing the tyres in a direction that they wouldn't have made it to the end probably."

Asked about the decision to tell Hamilton to yield to his teammate, Wolff said: "We wanted to evaluate what his performance really was after the damage and whether it was possible that Valtteri could have protected against Lando. But that wasn't possible.

"It was also fair to towards Valtteri to do his own race," he added. "This is when we decided to switch, obviously understanding that we would lose P3 to McLaren.

"The result looks worse in terms of pace than we were,” he insisted. "Overall, I think damage limitation maybe. We were stuck behind the McLaren and I think in pace we probably could have been there. Maybe not enough to win the race but right there, which is a step forward."

"He lost a lot of downforce with some bodywork damage before the stop," added chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin. "Lewis took a lot out of his tyres trying to pass in the first stint but once he'd got through on lap 20, Max was too far up the road for us to mount a challenge.

"It looks like the bodywork damage for Lewis was at the end of lap 29 just before we came in. The downforce loss was around six or seven tenths but as it was all from the rear, the balance become difficult and we were damaging the rears with sliding."

"We will go to Silverstone and blow everybody away, finish one and two, 30 seconds in advance of everybody else," said Wolff as he looked ahead to the next race. Here is quite a short lap, so two-and-a-half tenths makes a lot of difference. Silverstone is maybe a bit different. It's a little step and every little step counts, so we need to make that work.

"We could see that the improvement from last week to here in terms of race pace was actually understanding the car a little bit more. There are more clues we have unearthed and I think we will progress and eventually be in the race again.

"Lewis lost six points compared to finishing second and adding that all up is making the momentum go in the wrong direction," he added. "But we are one DNF away from being right there in the constructors and the drivers championships, so this is far from over.

"We need to recognise this is a tough championship. You can't expect every single year to cruise away into the sunset. We will do everything needed to make Red Bull not do exactly that. We need to up our game, make less mistakes and continue to understand the car better."

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Published: 05/07/2021
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