Lewis Hamilton: Dutch GP qualifying was ‘reminiscent of good times’ of 2021

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton in his garage. Zandvoort September 2022.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaks to a colleague in the garage. Netherlands September 2022.

Lewis Hamilton praised his “completely transformed” Mercedes car at Zandvoort, saying the tight tussle he had in qualifying reminded him of better times.

Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell were well in the hunt for pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix but had to abort their final flying laps after Sergio Perez had spun at Turn 13, with both Mercedes cars running behind and having to back off.

They were unable to improve on their initial efforts as a result and Hamilton will instead line up fourth, behind Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, while Russell will start sixth.

But the speed he had in itself was enough to make Hamilton enthuse about his prospects, and give him the feeling he had in last season’s dramatic title battle.

“I was fighting for it,” Hamilton told Sky F1 when asked if pole position had been possible.

“It was really such a positive feeling to come from a difficult weekend, difficult result [at Spa].

“The car has completely transformed this weekend, just because of the different type of track, and to be fighting with only like a tenth between us and a Red Bull, it felt very reminiscent of good times of last year.

“I really was hoping maybe I could just make that little difference and potentially get ahead at the end. I was up, but whether or not it was up enough to be pole? Probably not, but definitely fighting for the front row.”

Toto Wolff, though, believed his data showed Hamilton was faster than both Verstappen and Leclerc on his final qualifying lap before Perez’s spin.

Wolff made clear his belief Perez was not to blame for costing both drivers at the end, brushing it off as something that just happens in Formula 1 from time to time.

But given the pace Hamilton had on his final lap before the yellow flags came out, the Mercedes team boss thought the seven-time former World Champion’s first pole of the year was very much on.

“It’s very frustrating,” Wolff said to Sky F1 after qualifying. “We were a tenth up on Verstappen and on Leclerc, so Lewis played for pole here.

“You lose pole because of a yellow or you lose a few hundredths by running first – it’s always afterwards you know better.

“Anything is possible. We have a strong race car, starting second row, so let’s see where that can get us tomorrow.”