Lewis Hamilton reveals his ‘only’ thought on big Sergio Perez contact

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaks to the media after qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaks to the media after qualifying at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton has defended his move on Sergio Perez that resulted in the Red Bull driver’s retirement from the Belgian Grand Prix sprint race.

Hamilton and Perez came to blows at the exit of Stavelot as they battled over fourth place, with the latter tumbling down the order and running into the gravel before returning to the pits to retire with damage.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described the incident as “very unfortunate” and accused Hamilton of putting “a big hole” in Perez’s sidepod in the incident.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Lewis Hamilton defends Sergio Perez move

Hamilton went on to finish fourth on the road, but was demoted to seventh in the final classification after being slapped with a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.

Channelling the spirit of three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna, Hamilton – who described the collision as “unfortunate” and a “racing incident” – fears drivers risk being deterred from overtaking by harsh stewards’ decisions.

He told media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper at Spa: “My only thought is that it’s tricky conditions out there, we’re all trying our best and of course it wasn’t intentional. I went for a gap, he was slow going through [Turn] 14, I went up inside, I was more than half a car length up the inside.

“If you’re not going for a gap then you’re no longer racing, as Ayrton always said, so that’s what I did. When I watched it back it feels like a racing incident to me

“I just feel like we were in a racing period where we don’t want to be deterred from racing, you know?

“In a race like today, I honestly don’t really care too much. You don’t get many points. Of course, it would have been nice to finish fourth but I don’t really care to finish fourth, I want to win. So fourth or seventh, it doesn’t really make a difference to me.

“With the collision I had floor damage, so I lost a lot of downforce on the floor. Unfortunately, the rear end was just tailing, the tyres were going off and I couldn’t get any closer [to third-placed Pierre Gasly].”

Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from third – sandwiched between Perez and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz – after a gearbox penalty dropped polesitter Max Verstappen to sixth on the grid.

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The 38-year-old has been encouraged by Mercedes’ pace at Spa and is convinced he could have started on the front row from the sprint if it wasn’t for a messy incident with team-mate George Russell at the end of the sprint shootout.

He told Sky Sports F1: “Our pace has generally been decent today.

“On a single lap, I think, without the incident at the end, we would have been fighting for the front row, would have been right up with Max, I think, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“Third tomorrow, I think I’ve got a Ferrari and Perez [around me], so I’m hoping I’ll be able to fight those guys. At some stage Max will come sailing by and I’ll just try to keep the McLarens behind.”

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