Lewis Hamilton admits he was ‘late’ with engine mode switch at Dutch restart

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton is overtaken by Max Verstappen at the restart. Netherlands September 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is overtaken by Max Verstappen at the restart. Netherlands September 2022

Lewis Hamilton revealed that he switched back to his ‘race’ engine mode late upon restarting behind the Safety Car at Zandvoort, but felt Max Verstappen’s straight-line speed was faster anyway.

Hamilton led the field away after a late Safety Car at Zandvoort, with World Championship leader Verstappen behind on fresher, softer tyres at the time.

But the Red Bull was able to breeze past the Mercedes on the pit straight at the restart before the drivers had made it to Turn 1, allowing Verstappen to take the lead and control the race to take victory on home soil.

That said, Hamilton felt Red Bull’s speed was faster than his Mercedes in a straight line anyway.

“I was late to get to the race mode, but I was in race mode on the straight, but they were just fast on the straights,” Hamilton said after the race, quoted by GPFans.

Hamilton fumed over team radio at his strategy of not pitting for soft tyres like Verstappen and team-mate George Russell, but that fraction of time without being at full power will have contributed to costing him the lead almost immediately.

But the medium tyres he had fitted to his W13 also played their part in Hamilton’s vulnerability at the front, with Verstappen, Russell and Charles Leclerc all making their way by to bump the seven-time World Champion off the podium come the chequered flag.

Russell made the call himself to pit for softs for the final laps, but Hamilton was left angry at not being given the instruction from the team to follow suit.

He said he saw what was happening when the Safety Car brought the field through the pit lane on Sunday, but he followed the orders given to him at the time.

“That I don’t know,” Hamilton admitted when asked why he did not replicate Russell’s strategy.

“At the beginning of the day, we talked about taking the risk of going onto a one-stop. There was no discussion of if 20 laps to the end there was a Safety Car, that wasn’t a part of the discussion.

“Honestly, when that came up, I just followed the direction… I didn’t think anyone was going to stop.

“I drove past my pit box and saw the tyres were out and saw what was happening to George, in that moment I was like ‘wait a second’.

“So it was kind of then my heart started to fade a bit.”

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