Albeit delighted with a scintillating recovery drive, Lewis Hamilton was left pondering what could have been without Lap 1 contact in Spain.
Starting P6, Hamilton found the Haas of Kevin Magnussen attempting to pass around the outside at Turn 4, that resulting in contact as Magnussen went off into the gravel, while Hamilton had to pit with a puncture. That left both drivers running at the back.
Hamilton wanted to retire the car at that point, but urged to carry on by the team, told that P8 was possible, Hamilton went on to far exceed that and finish P5.
It would have been P4, but a late “DNF risk” forced Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate George Russell to “lift and coast”, allowing Sainz to retake the place.
Nonetheless, without that contact with Magnussen, Hamilton ponders just what would have been possible for him in Spain as his five-race winning streak at the venue came to an end.
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Speaking to Sky F1, Hamilton said: “Just really grateful I was able to come back and so grateful to the team for just keeping their head down and positive feedback coming through.
“And for the all the amazing work to get us to this improvement you know, the car felt great and the race pace is closer to the to the rest and the top guys in the race, which is amazing.
“Yeah, just really unfortunate at start to get the punches that I got, but I didn’t give up. So that’s what we do, right?
“I think if I hadn’t had that issue at the beginning, who knows where we would have been in the end, so it’s great to know that we had similar pace to some of the front runners.”
Asked to explain that issue which created the threat of retirement, Hamilton said: “It’s just a lot hotter than predicted today. And I think for everyone, it’s just it’s quite tough with these cars, and yeah, I think today we don’t know exactly what went on with the car.
“I’ve not spoken to the team because I’ve been elsewhere, but I had to basically just drive it half throttle and trying to pull the car and lots and lots of lifting down the straight, just to try and get clean air and fresh air into the engine and just to cool it down.”
Hamilton admitted then that it was particularly gutting to lose that place to Sainz late on, considering he had fought back to such a lofty position from “no man’s land”.
“Gutted to lose the pace to Sainz [at the end], but especially after like coming from where I came from, you know, like I mean, that was 30 plus seconds behind last place,” said Hamilton. “I mean that’s like no man’s land, and I’d say it’s a horrible feeling being that far behind.
“But you just have to kind of keep your head up, just keep pushing, keep going and hoping for better, you know.
“And they said I could maybe get to eighth and an eighth doesn’t feel like a particularly impressive result.
“But I was like well, at least I’ll get into the points and so then finishing fourth, I was so happy.”
Mercedes identified the bouncing of their W13 as the biggest barrier to them finding more performance, so that was backed up by the fact that at a Spanish GP where said bouncing looked far more under control, Mercedes suddenly were far closer to Red Bull and Ferrari at the front.
Hamilton said the issue was much less severe in Spain, though still present, backing his team to keep working for a full fix.
“We do still have bouncing but not in a straight line, it’s three corners, but nowhere near as bad as what we had before,” he said.
“So I think the guys are working really hard. So I’m sure we can fix that over time.”