Lewis Hamilton: Race battles are way more fun than starting first

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton wearing white Mercedes cap. Monaco May 2022.

Lewis Hamilton smiling and wearing white Mercedes cap. Monaco May 2022.

Lewis Hamilton says his battles at Monza, where he raced from 19th on the grid to P5 at the chequered flag, were “way more fun than starting first”.

It is safe to say the Mercedes driver, with his 103 pole positions, is more used to lining up at the front of the field than at the back.

But at the back is where he had to start the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton taking engine penalties when his W13 was fitted with its fourth hybrid system.

It did not take him long to begin his fightback, inside the points after 18 laps before falling down to 12th as he came in for his one stop of the day.

Hamilton worked his way back up to fifth, the Briton trying to chase down Carlos Sainz when the Safety Car came out for Daniel Ricciardo’s stationary McLaren.

The race finished behind the Safety Car with Hamilton declaring he had enjoyed his Sunday afternoon.

“[It’s] a thousand times more enjoyable, battling with people,” he said, quoted by the Mirror.

“I remember my first go-kart was like an old kart, we always had to start at the back, old tyres, that’s what I’ve always enjoyed doing.

“So having those battles is way more fun than starting first. It’s a different chapter but I much prefer battles.”

He can look forward to more battles in the final six races of the season, although the Mercedes driver doubts any of those will be against his 2021 foe, Max Verstappen.

The Red Bull driver is in a league of his own this season, claiming his fifth win on the trot at Monza, his 11th in 16 grands prix.

The other five have gone the way of either his team-mate Sergio Perez or the Ferrari drivers, with Mercedes yet to get off the mark.

Although Hamilton has twice finished runner-up, the seven-time former World Champion fell short of Verstappen in both the French and Hungarian GPs.

“We have to be realistic. That Red Bull is almost unbeatable,” he stated.

“It will take some real doing to beat that car. Performance-wise they are fully ahead of everyone.

“We haven’t caught them and we don’t have upgrades coming to overtake them, so it will take some fortune going our way.

“Not impossible because we could potentially have beaten them at Zandvoort, maybe could have beaten them in Budapest.

“But [Verstappen] has generally chilled at the front, so you never know the true pace. We’ll see.”

With six races remaining, Hamilton is sixth in the Drivers’ Championship with 168 points, 51 off the pace in what is a five-way fight to finish runner-up.

Verstappen, the runaway championship leader, is more than 100 ahead of the chasing pack with 335 points on the board.

Read more: Lewis Hamilton makes Abu Dhabi jibe after Monza Safety Car controversy
Read more: Conclusions from the Italian GP; a win for Max Verstappen and Nyck de Vries
Read more: Italian Grand Prix driver ratings: Nyck de Vries shows he belongs in F1