Lewis Hamilton questions Mercedes engine mode and ‘crazy’ McLaren pace

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage. Britain July 2023

Seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage. Britain July 2023

After the highs of claiming pole on Saturday in Hungary, race day brought Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes crashing back down to Earth.

Following his mighty qualifying performance to pip Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to pole by 0.003s, Hamilton went into race day at the Hungaroring looking for what would have been a record-breaking ninth Hungarian GP win.

No driver has won nine times at a single F1 venue, and sadly that remains the case, Hamilton’s race day in Hungary certainly not going to plan.

Lewis Hamilton struggles from the start

Launching alongside Verstappen and ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, Hamilton found himself dropping behind the trio on the opening lap.

Verstappen then settled into familiar territory as he pulled clear out front, while the McLaren pair also proceeded to put distance between themselves and Hamilton.

And as the gap to Piastri grew to nine seconds, Hamilton came over the Mercedes team radio to express his displeasure.

“How have they [McLaren] got nine seconds all of a sudden? That’s a crazy amount,” said Hamilton.

By Lap 29, the deficit to Piastri ahead had hit the 10-second mark, and Hamilton wanted to know where he was losing such an alarming chunk of time to the McLarens.

“Where am I losing all the time? It’s just the car is slow?” Hamilton asked.

His engineer Peter Bonnington replied: “A lot of it is straight line. Then in turns 11 and 14.”

At that point, Hamilton even asked whether Mercedes are “turning the engines down?”

“Negative. We are doing things to improve temperature situation,” came the reply.

Initially the situation got worse for Hamilton, who dropped to P5 as he was undercut by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who was charging back through the pack into the podium spots.

Hamilton’s race did though end on something of a high, as he would complete an overtake on Piastri to return to P4, with this late spurt of pace from the W14 also bringing him back within range of Perez.

The seven-time champ would though run out of laps to attempt a pass on Perez, meaning P4 was the finishing position which he was forced to settle for.

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