Lewis Hamilton says that his P5 finish in the Spanish Grand Prix was “like a win”, and believes he was not being “defeatist” when he suggested retiring the car.
Hamilton fell to the well-beyond the rear of the field at the end of the first lap of the Barcelona race after heavy contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen at Turn 4 punctured the front-left tyre of the Mercedes and left him with no option but to slowly return to the pit lane.
Upon re-entering the race, the TV broadcast played a radio message from the seven-time champion suggesting to his race engineer Pete ‘Bono’ Bonnington that he should retire the car to “save the engine”. Particularly prevalent in the new cost cap era of Formula 1, manufacturing more spare components than intended takes a bigger hit out of the teams’ finances and also runs the risk of incurring grid penalties, both of which will seriously handicap championship campaigns.
Hamilton was therefore thinking that he could not possibly make up enough positions to make the added 66 laps of power unit wear in the sweltering Spanish temperatures worthwhile. But his race engineer reassured Hamilton that the team’s prediction was for a potential P8 finish (four championship points) being the best case scenario.
He would go on to finish in P5, while his teammate George Russell crossed the line in P3, with Hamilton only missing out on a certain P4 had it not been for a severe cooling issue arising in the last few laps. He was very happy with the result, comparing it to the Saudi Arabia race earlier in the season where he struggled to make up places from a lowly starting position.
“I’m so happy,” said Hamilton to media. “Obviously I was hoping for a smoother race without the issue at the beginning of the race, and I was 30 seconds behind at one stage, behind last. Having seen where I was, and if you think back to Jeddah where I started 15th and I struggled to get into the top 10, I was thinking it’s impossible to get back into points position.
“But the team said no, you’re on for eighth. I couldn’t understand it at the beginning, and I thought they were definitely being super optimistic. But I said OK, I’ll give it everything and see where I come out and it turns out it was higher than eighth. So it was just a little bit unfortunate at the end with the engine, but I’m just glad we finished.”
Hamilton also explained that he was not being defeatist on the radio, amidst a season that has not got off to the best of starts for him or the Mercedes team in which has fuelled doubts about his commitment to Formula 1.
“It’s not being defeatist, it was just I was literally 30 seconds behind,” Hamilton exclaimed. “If I’m going to use a whole engine to drive around in last or out of the top 15, and at one point we might have to take a penalty or something like that.
“I don’t know if reliability is an issue, we won’t know until, well we’ve already seen today at the end there was something. I was like, we might as well just save the engine so we live to fight another day. But I’m glad we didn’t, and it just shows you never stop, you never give up, and that’s what I did.”
He also added on how he takes “100%” satisfaction from the race which he feels was “like a win” for him after a difficult start to the 2022 season in which he has been outpaced by Russell on more than one occasion.
“A race like that is like a win,” said Hamilton. “And it actually feels better most often than a win, when you’ve come from so far back, been through so much. Ultimately there was quite a bit of adversity in that race, starting so far back. And there was a girl that I spoke to yesterday, who was my little inspiration, Isla, a five-year-old that’s terminally ill and she said can you win the race for me tomorrow.
“I said I don’t know if I can win the race, but I’ll give it everything. So hopefully for me, that was a bit like a win, and I dedicate it to her,” summed up Hamilton. Mercedes’ CEO and team principal Toto Wolff added his thoughts on the dynamic between Hamilton and the team during the race, and how the climb through the field reminded him of last year.
“The dynamic between the driver and team is something that is so important, and it’s clear,” said Wolff to media. “You’re having an accident at the early stage of the race, and you’re saying to yourself, ‘not again’, and you’re not featuring because I think he was 38 seconds or so behind the last cars after his stop. That’s basically game over.
“But then, him going and then showing this very good pace was important. It was not only [for] his morale, but also our morale. And who would have thought he would have climbed all the way to fourth before the problem came up. And that looked like a world championship winning race car that he was driving, that would have not been possible in the previous races.
“That reminded me of last year and the years before when a car is really on the top of its game, and the driver.” The radio message from Hamilton didn’t surprise Wolff during the race, instead implying that he didn’t really want to retire the car and was merely venting his frustration.
“On the contrary, I think it was just, you know, a sentence of ‘I can’t believe that’ it was not what he meant,” he replied when asked if the message came as a surprise. “You’re not describing exactly a driver that comes back 38 seconds behind the last guy, storms to the front, posting the fastest lap times, consecutive lap times throughout the race, and ends up in P5. That shows his quality mindset and determination.”