‘Red Bull will be hard to beat’: Hamilton admits winning F1 title will be tough

Sport

Lewis Hamilton believes that every point will be vital in the Formula One title fight this season after a comprehensive defeat by Red Bull at the Monaco Grand Prix. The world champion finished seventh while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen scored his first win in Monaco and in so doing took the lead of the drivers’ championship while his team overtook Mercedes in the constructors’ battle.

While Verstappen enjoyed an almost flawless weekend in Monte Carlo, from second on the grid to winning from the front to the flag, Hamilton and Mercedes were found wanting. The British driver explained they had severe problems bringing their tyres up to the correct operating temperature on the street circuit and suffered from a subsequent lack of grip all weekend.

It was particularly costly in qualifying where he managed only seventh on a circuit where passing is all but impossible. Then in the race, the team’s strategy of attempting an early pit stop backfired, causing him to lose two places. They also had to retire his teammate Valtteri Bottas after a mechanical failure prevented the removal of his right front wheel during his pitstop.

Hamilton had gone into the meeting with a 14-point lead over Verstappen but is now four points behind the Dutchman after five meetings, while Red Bull are one point ahead of Mercedes. Hamilton was disappointed and frustrated afterwards, stressing that they could not allow a repeat performance with the title fight so competitive this season.

He admitted he took some comfort in that they had minimised his losses and that every point may yet prove vital, including the one he scored for fastest lap. Mercedes specifically targeted the bonus point, giving Hamilton a late pit stop for fresh tyres to go for the quickest time.

“It’s going to be tough, they have a championship-winning car and they will be very hard to beat,” he said. “I have been serious about this all year. It’s not over, there is a long, long way to go. I am grateful we finished and got some points and the fastest lap. Every point you can get on a bad weekend like this can count towards something at the end.”

He had spoken of a lack of preparedness for the weekend at the team but was emphatic Mercedes would address any problems collectively as they have learned to do in winning the past seven drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

“We don’t like to kick each other when we are down, there is no finger pointing, no one individual that takes blame,” he said. “We have a very open discussion, open and honest. The reason we have all these championships is we make plenty of mistakes but we always come back stronger and learn from them. I am often grateful for days like this because you learn the most. If you are winning all the time you learn less and there is a lot to learn from this weekend. We don’t have all the answers but it will force us to search for them.”

Hamilton, who is attempting to win his eighth title this season but is clearly in the closest fight he has had for several years, was calm as he considered the next round in Baku, also a street circuit and where tyre temperatures may prove an issue.

“We have shown time and time again that we can bounce back from this sort of weekend,” he added. “Hence I am not the most stressed.”

Britain’s Lando Norris enjoyed another superb weekend for McLaren, finishing third. It was his first podium in Monaco and returned him to third place in the drivers’ championship. Norris revelled in what he admitted was an unexpected and celebratory result for him and the team

“It’s been a pretty crazy weekend. I think we came into it with not many expectations,” he said. “Not many expectations at all but it turned into probably one of our best weekends altogether. The car’s been pretty good to drive. It’s been a cool weekend, especially here in Monaco. It’s even more special than any other track. I’ll cherish it, I’m just hoping there’s plenty more of them and we can do that at other tracks, because I think that’s going to be the harder thing to do.”