Lewis Hamilton’s cut tyre almost caused a first-lap retirement

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes gear and helmet. Belgium, August 2022.

Mercedes have revealed that Lewis Hamilton was very close to an early retirement following his opening lap collision at the Dutch Grand Prix. 

Hamilton collided with Carlos Sainz at the very first corner of the race at Zandvoort as the Mercedes driver looked to overtake his Ferrari counterpart on the inside.

The Brit’s front left wheel made contact with the sidepod of the Ferrari but luckily for the pair of them, the damage was minimal.

Hamilton, who was knocked off course but managed to set himself straight before hitting the wall, asked his engineers to check everything was okay with his W13 car but was quickly reassured that from what they could see, all was good.

“You will have heard him come on the radio and say that he had made contact and asked us to check the car,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said in the team’s Dutch GP debrief.

“What we can do then is we can look at the tyre pressures, we can see that the tyre is holding air in it, so we know that we haven’t got a puncture and the other thing is we are looking at all the aero sensors on the car trying to establish if there is damage.

“Now, the damage wasn’t very significant in terms of performance, but we did have damage to the front wing endplate which would have been costing in balance and a little bit of downforce on the car.”

It was not until the tyre was changed that Shovlin and the team realised that the incident could have been a whole lot more damaging to Hamilton’s race.

“The other thing is we had a cut in the tyre that we didn’t know about until we got the tyre back at the end of that stint.

“Now, luckily that didn’t cause a puncture, but it would have been very close to causing a serious problem bringing Lewis in on lap one.”

Hamilton managed to stay out, but it was his tyres that would come back to haunt him later in the race. With him leading the race ahead of team-mate George Russell and then Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the seven-time World Champion was the only one of the top three not to pit following a late Safety Car.

The result was Hamilton was left badly exposed following the restart and Verstappen, who was on fresh soft tyres compared to Hamilton’s mediums, easily overtook his 2021 rival on the way to victory.

The day got worse for Hamilton with him eventually slipping down the order to P4 and causing him to voice his angry opinion over the team radio.

Hamilton has since apologised for his comments and said he made them while he was at the very limit of his emotions.