Sir Lewis Hamilton admitted Mercedes had been below their imperious best all weekend at the end of a poor Monaco Grand Prix for the World Champions.
So used to setting sky-high standards, Mercedes were way off their normal level on the streets of Monte Carlo – and especially in the race.
They emerged with only seven points from Hamilton’s seventh-place finish – the same position in which he had qualified – and for setting the fastest lap, while Valtteri Bottas’ race ended when his front right tyre got stuck on the car during his pit-stop while running second.
It left the door open for Red Bull to take the lead in both the Drivers and Constructors’ World Championships, Max Verstappen winning the race to move four points ahead of Hamilton, while Sergio Perez’s fourth-place finish helped spark a big swing in the teams’ standings.
Tough one to swallow. This has been one of our hardest days as a Team in a very long time.
We have to accept it, own the failure, learn from it and move on from here. pic.twitter.com/S8q2gMX4dw
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 23, 2021
A strategy decision to put Hamilton on hard tyres on lap 30 did not work out as he found himself behind Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly instead of being in a position to challenge Lando Norris for the final podium placing.
The seven-time World Champion voiced his disbelief over the team radio, with the only very minor consolation being the point for the fastest lap which he set after a second pit-stop.
“How am I still behind him, man, come on,” said Hamilton to his race engineer Pete Bonnington after finding Gasly still ahead of him, later adding: “What has happened, guys, I’ve just lost two places.
“I don’t understand, guys. I saved the tyres to go longer. You made me stop before everyone.”
Asked by Sky F1 for his reaction to the strategy call, Hamilton said: “I don’t really have a reaction to it. We do all our talking in the background and we’ll work together and try to come out of this stronger.
“We under-performed as a team all weekend, from the get-go, so we’ll just put our focus onto the next race. Congratulations to Max and his team, they did a great job.”
The fear for Hamilton and Mercedes is that, now trailing Red Bull by one point in the Constructors’ Championship, they will find themselves even further behind after the next race in Azerbaijan which is also expected to favour their rivals’ car.
“It’s another street circuit, another one that’s a really cold, smooth circuit, another that we could easily struggle at again, similar to here,” added Hamilton.
“We’ll just have to work and see how we can minimise that loss.”