Hamilton: ‘Quickest Red Bull have been all year’

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the grid at Zandvoort. September 2021.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen line up alongside each other for the Dutch national anthem.

Lewis Hamilton admitted Red Bull have taken “a step ahead” after Max Verstappen’s victory at Zandvoort on Sunday.

The Dutchman was able to keep the charging Mercedes driver at arm’s length throughout on home soil, as Verstappen re-took a three-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

After trying to catch Red Bull off guard with an added pit stop, Hamilton said repeatedly on team radio that Mercedes’ approach was the incorrect one to overhaul Verstappen’s advantage.

The seven-time World Champion said he was giving everything to try and keep up, but his attempts were ultimately unsuccessful as the Red Bull driver took his 17th career victory at the weekend.

Such was the pace advantage of their title rivals, Hamilton thinks that’s the best pace they have shown all season.

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“They put in an upgrade at the last race and they’re quick. That’s the quickest I think they’ve been all year. I think they’ve taken a bit of a step ahead,” Hamilton told reporters after the race.

“I really don’t know how it’s going to go [at Monza]. We will be on lower downforce and maybe we can be closer there, maybe. But it’s going to be tough.

“We just keep our heads down and keep working, keep pushing. We are ahead in the team championship, which is great, but of course we need to pick up some speed – that’s what we want – to be able to win races in future.

“We’ve given absolutely everything, I think. Ever since the first race, these guys have just had such a strong car all year,” Hamilton added in the post-race press conference.

“We’re trying as hard as we can. We had a couple of races where it looked like we were on par with them, or just slightly ahead, but there’s only been a couple of those, and then it took a big leap and it’s been difficult.

“I guess, it’s so close that you can’t really overtake in a lot of these places that we’ve been to previously because we are so closely matched.

“There wasn’t really a lot that I could do to answer the lap times he was putting in from stint one. It was very, very hard to keep up.

“And I think Max was just managing from then, whereas I was flat-out, just trying to stay as close as possible.”

With that, Hamilton feels Mercedes still have a chance to take race victories in the topsy-turvy title race, and urged his team to keep working on their current challenger if they are to beat Red Bull.

“I was like ‘we really need to speed things up here because otherwise they’re going to run away it’ and I think we did,” he said of his team’s development. “It’s heading in the right direction.

“There are still quite a lot of different kinds of tracks coming up so it will definitely swing both ways and we just have to keep on it and keep pushing and keep bringing new bits for the car.”