'We would've been challenging Max' – Hamilton and Russell reflect on costly opening few laps in Zandvoort
Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were left to ponder what might have been if decisions had gone in their favour, after they took the chequered flag at this weekend's Dutch GP in P6 and P17, respectively.
Lining up 13th, Hamilton was the one driver on the grid who made the call to start on the mediums – with the rest choosing the softs. But after the first lap, rain began to fall on track with many opting to switch to the intermediates.
Hamilton was not one of those drivers, as he braved the elements on the slicks before he eventually came in two laps later. He came out at the back of the field, but after several overtakes and a late battle with Carlos Sainz for P5, he wound up sixth.
And speaking to Sky Sports following the Zandvoort action, the upbeat seven-time world champion said: “I feel really good. I think I didn’t really know how today was going to go and I sat here last night just really wracking my brain, just thinking where did we go wrong, and how did we end up in this position.
“And then I was working on trying to figure out how I can progress this morning. Then I was the only one on the medium tyre. And I wanted to be off set to everyone around me, not everyone on the grid.
“And when that rain came out as a team, we made the wrong decision. Ultimately it was the team’s call, and we paid the price for that. And then we came out last, and then after that I was just chasing, kept my head down.
“A really good example of when you fall or stumble to get back up and keep trying. And every time I had to pit, I came out behind and just kept just chasing and chasing.
“I was really happy…. I got past the McLaren for example which on this track was not easy to do. I was quicker than Sainz at the end just needed DRS.”
Asked what the outcome could have been had they made their right decisions, Hamilton responded: “I think today, in those conditions, if we had made the right call, I had the pace to be challenging the top two.
“I think we would’ve been challenging Max [Verstappen] if I’m really honest. Particularly when we got to the dry, pace wise, we weren’t terribly far off. But, not saying we would beat them, but I think we would’ve been... it’s all nice if you think that way.”
Russell, on the other hand, qualified in P3 but lost out to Fernando Alonso on the opening lap. Like Hamilton, he also pitted late for the intermediates – which saw him at one stage lead the race – and that call saw him drop down the order.
“It was a really strange race," said Russell. "And I thought we were in a great position at one point. The team told me two minutes of rain. Then two guys leading the race pitted, I overtook Lando [Norris] for the lead, and the next thing Checo [Perez] comes by, and everybody comes past.
“And two minutes turns into 10 minutes of rain and then we go from the lead to P17. So, we need to understand why our forecast and prediction was showing us this because ultimately that’s what ruined our day today."
And having made positions up, Russell was in a battle with Norris following the red flag restart for seventh, but minor contact between the pair forced him to pit, dropping him down the order, and saw him finish 17th.
”Was just a racing incident. We were very close around Turn 9, and then Turn 10, and then I ended up with a puncture. Nobody’s fault. It topped off what was a bad day.”