Damon Hill understands Lewis Hamilton’s ‘very hot-headed’ Dutch GP outburst

Jon Wilde
Lewis Hamilton looking serious as he walks. Austria July 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looking serious as he walks. Austria July 2022

Damon Hill has sympathised with Lewis Hamilton over his team radio outburst at Mercedes during the Dutch Grand Prix.

Hamilton sensed he had a strong chance for a first victory of the season at Zandvoort, but his prospects unravelled due to strategy during periods when the Virtual Safety Car and, more markedly, the Safety Car itself were deployed.

The seven-time former World Champion claimed he had been “f***ing screwed” by the team as in the final stint after the Safety Car period, he fell from first position to finish fourth and was even passed on track by his team-mate George Russell.

Russell had stopped for fresh tyres under the Safety Car, whereas Mercedes were happy for Hamilton to stay out on older rubber and try to hold off eventual winner Max Verstappen.

Later apologising for his rant, Hamilton admitted he had been close to an emotional “breaking point” in the cockpit and could barely remember what he had said over the team radio.

Hill could relate to his 37-year-old compatriot’s frustration and said it goes with the territory of the situation he was in.

“There’s Lewis shaking his head, very unhappy because he thought they should have kept George Russell behind him on the same tyres because that would have meant when they had the restart, there was a car between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton,” said Hill on Sky Sports News.

“So how familiar does this sound? I can understand Lewis’ frustration and when you’re driving in a race you’re very, very hot-headed, let’s say – I think you have to be pretty highly charged.

“Things get said and he has said he recognises it was upsetting to hear that for the team.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was among those who admitted to being “quite surprised” that Mercedes had left Hamilton exposed to Verstappen by bringing Russell into the pits for a tyre change.

“I think it would have been a better call to at least give it a go and say to George ‘no, you stay there between Lewis and Max, see what you can do’,” said the 1996 World Champion.

“But I think the pace Max had was so incredible on the soft tyres it would have been very difficult for both of them to keep him behind.”

Asked whether Hamilton could also have tried to influence the strategy, like Russell is thought to have done, Hill replied: “I think you have to think on your feet as a driver and you have to know where your opportunities are.

“I think George called this one. I think he thought to himself ‘well, I’m gonna have a go if Lewis isn’t gonna have a go on the softer tyre’. And so in some ways, you can say the driver has an influence. He has a role to play and sometimes he has to convince the strategist on the pit wall that he knows best.

“And so this is a fascinating thing about our sport, it’s an individual sport mixed up inside a team sport. And there are only two members in that team as far as drivers go.

“So it’s a fascinating thing to watch. Some people seem to have a handle and an ability to control the strategy from the cockpit. And I think Lewis didn’t really have an option, frankly, because he’d gone for the long run on the medium tyres and if he’d come in, he would have come out behind.

“But he still did have that option. So it looks potentially possible for him to have done a similar thing and been on the same tyres as Max at the end.”