Lewis Hamilton rues massive missed opportunity in Austrian GP sprint race

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton prepares for the start of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton prepares for the start of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Lewis Hamilton is convinced he would have finished on the podium in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race had Saturday morning gone to plan at the Red Bull Ring.

The seven-time World Champion fell at the first stage of qualifying for the first time since Saudi Arabia 2022 in the SQ1 session in Styria and was classified a lowly 18th.

Hamilton had a lap time deleted for breaching track limits during the session and was also involved in a blocking incident with rival Max Verstappen, who compromised the start of Hamilton’s quick lap after the Mercedes driver had impeded him at the final corner.

Lewis Hamilton felt a podium was possible

Hamilton dismissed the significance of his early elimination by claiming straight after the session that “the sprint race doesn’t really matter anyway” having become a standalone event on the middle day of a grand prix weekend in 2023.

But after recovering to 10th place on Saturday afternoon, the 38-year-old admitted a podium finish was more than possible judging by his pace in the wet conditions.

Likening the race to “a day out” at British karting venue Rye House, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1: “I think I was relatively quick this morning so I think I should have easily been in the top five and then in the race I would have probably been on the podium, or close to the podium, with the general pace that we had.

“But [that] wasn’t meant to be and so we just enjoyed ourselves in the race and lost a few points, but it’s not the most important of days today.

“We’ve got a lot of learning. so hopefully we can take that in tomorrow.”

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Hamilton will start Sunday’s grand prix from fifth place and is searching for a third consecutive podium finish, having finished in the top three in Spain and Canada in recent weeks.

However, with Verstappen looking to extend the dominant Red Bull team’s winning run in 2023 to nine and Ferrari showing improved pace following the arrival of a major upgrade package in Barcelona, Hamilton says he would settle for sticking within striking distance of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on Sunday.

He said “I’m around the Ferraris, which are quick, and the Red Bull, which is in it own league, so if I can try and hold on to the Ferraris that’ll be great, but we’ll see.”

Despite his sprint shootout disappointment, Hamilton has outqualified Mercedes team-mate George Russell at each of the four races since Mercedes introduced a heavily revised package in Monaco.

After the Monaco upgrade, where the team unveiled a more conventional sidepod design and Red Bull-inspired anti-dive suspension, Mercedes are set to bring another update at next weekend’s British GP at Silverstone.

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