SILVERSTONE, England (AP) Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes’ mishaps in Austria will make the team stronger and help him become the British Grand Prix’s outright most successful driver on Sunday.
The four-time world champion lost the championship lead after failing to finish at Spielburg following a strategy mistake. But Hamilton said Thursday that ”the spirit within the team is stronger than it’s ever been and these experiences that we’ve been having – how we’ve been handling them – have really united us more than any other thing. There’s a great energy about the team.”
Mercedes endured its worst result since 2016 when Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas also failed to finish in the Austrian GP. It came after both drivers dominated two of three practice sessions and finished clearly on top in qualifying.
Mercedes’ chief strategist, James Vowles, took the blame for failing to call in Hamilton for a pit stop while the safety car was out. Both Red Bull and Ferrari were quick to take advantage.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel now leads Hamilton by one point with three races to go – including the German GP on July 22 and in Hungary a week later – before Formula One’s summer break.
Hamilton appeared humble at the news conference Thursday in contrast to the emotions he showed four days earlier when he realized he wouldn’t finish in Austria. It was the first time in 33 races that the British driver failed to claim any points.
”As soon as we got the car back that evening we had a fix designed and put into test-mode. So the team is super on it,” Hamilton said. ”And the problems – we’ve done everything we can to make sure they don’t happen again.”
If Hamilton claims his fifth consecutive win in his home race on Sunday, it will be his sixth British Grand Prix victory in total, surpassing the record he currently holds with Jim Clark and Alain Prost.
”It’s been a really incredible journey since 2007,” Hamilton said of his debut season, when he finished third in Silverstone. ”I’m very grateful to be in a position to be able to fight for (the record) here at Silverstone, for the sixth time. Not many drivers can do that. I’m very privileged in this respect.”
But last weekend’s trouble was not the first of the season for Mercedes.
A timing issue denied Hamilton a win in the season-opening Australian GP in March, he was handed a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change in Bahrain, and there were issues in China and Canada before last weekend’s problems.
”It has been an up-and-down season, I can’t really explain it,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the mistakes in Austria taught the team ”a lesson about humility” but that it would analyze them and ”come back stronger from that learning.”
Hamilton said the team was ”constantly improving” and he appeared confident that the problems would cease.
One distraction beyond Hamilton’s control is England’s World Cup quarterfinal against Sweden on Saturday. The soccer match starts at the same time as the F1 qualifying session is due to end, with the top three drivers then obliged to speak to the media.
”What’s the penalty for missing the press conference on Saturday?” Hamilton joked. ”I want to watch the game.”
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