After crashing the Mercedes W13 in Austria qualifying, Lewis Hamilton said his rebuilt car was close, but did not quite feel the same.
Hamilton started sprint qualifying from P9 having suffered a heavy Q3 crash, improving a place to P8 on the Austrian Grand Prix grid.
It was a particularly disappointing incident for Hamilton as the W13 was, by his own admission, looking like a car which was fighting for a spot in the top three.
After a heavy rebuild job, including a swap to the spare chassis, Hamilton was back in action for the sprint and full-length Austrian Grand Prix.
And though he felt that both incarnations of the W13 were similar, the 2.0 version was slightly different to Friday’s.
Asked how the W13 felt on Sunday, having said after qualifying that it had top-three potential, Hamilton told reporters: “Honestly, I do feel like every now and then our qualifying pace looks like we could have been in the top three, and obviously with the crash that wasn’t possible.
“And then completely new car, everything, strips, new chassis, obviously same engine but changed the gearbox I think, all the corners, everything.
“And then that, you firstly don’t want to damage the car again, the car definitely didn’t feel exactly the same as what I had on Friday, but very, very close and it just seemed to get a bit better as I got more dialed in with it.”
Hamilton did deliver though on the potential he felt, going from P8 on the grid to a P3 finish, retirements for Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz helping his cause.
George Russell crossed the line P4 in the other Mercedes.
Nonetheless, it is a third podium in succession for Hamilton, a result which he certainly would have taken heading into the Austria weekend.
Asked if he would have seen P3 as a good result coming into the Austrian GP, Hamilton replied: “Definitely, definitely. I mean especially after a difficult Friday with the crash which was not expected and I’m really so still sorry to the team of course, but just so proud of everyone for working so hard to rebuild the car.
“And also just proud of everyone back at the factory for continuing to work hard. I know, they’re going to have to know what they do with those bits that I destroyed. But hopefully we have some new better bits to come after that.
“So this is a great recovery for us as a team to get a third and the fourth is some really good points. And so we have just got to keep our heads down and keep chipping away and we’re slowly eating into the guys ahead. But they’re still pretty quick.”