Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

Hamilton says he’s ‘punching below his weight’ despite title lead

2018 Spanish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes are more uncertain about their car than they were 12 months ago despite the fact he’s leading the world championship.

“Since the last race I have not thought for one second that I’m leading the world championship,” he said at the Circuit de Catalunya today.

“There’s a long way to go. Imagine if I got excited now knowing that we still have all the problems and things moving ahead. It doesn’t mean really anything.

“What’s important is where you are at the end of the year. If we happen this weekend to have got on top of the issues that we have with the car and we start to be more consistent then I can be a lot happier because then I know I can continue to punch at or above my weight. But at the moment I’m punching below my weight and that’s not sufficient to win the world championship.”

Hamilton said his championship lead has come about by capitalising on the mistakes and misfortune of other drivers. “I’ll take it for now but I don’t think for the long term I can continue to rely on that,” he said.

He said the team isn’t as confident as it was ahead of the same race 12 months ago and is still trying to solve its problems with the current generation of tyres.

“I would say we were a little bit more confident last year in starting on the right foot as we understood the car a little bit better already by this point. There’s still a lot of unknowns in this season right now. We’re still learning and hoping.

“For example this weekend the tyres are the biggest contributor to the struggles that we’ve had so I’m hoping that this weekend we don’t have them but I have no idea. And they’ve just changed the tyres again for the blistering issues we had in testing so it could go from a two-stop to a one-stop or maybe a three-stop I have no idea what it’s going to do.

“But I do hope it’s not a one-stop because that’s not very exciting.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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Posted on Categories 2018 F1 season, 2018 Spanish Grand Prix, F1 news

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  • 16 comments on “Hamilton says he’s ‘punching below his weight’ despite title lead”

    1. Well, though he did lose the lead in a thoroughly deserved Australian GP thanks to a SC he did gain loads of points on Vettel thanks to first Bottas, and afterwards Verstappen in China, and even more so thanks to the SC in Baku. If anyone deserves to be at the top at this moment in time it’s either Bottas or Vettel. Considering one of these two is Hamilton his teammate and we all know what Hamilton can do I’d say he is indeed punching below his weight, but hardly ‘because of the car’, or Bottas has just been soundly better.

      1. “Deserves”? Racing doesn’t care who “deserves” what.

      2. Agree, flatsix, it’s just hamilton atm, not the car, I can’t fault him for australia (I’d give him a 10), bahrain only bad qualifying (8), china slow qualifying and race (5), baku quite a good start of the weekend but towards the end he didn’t seem to have the pace to challenge bottas, plus a lock up while following vettel (7).

        1. Do work for Mercedes F1 team?

    2. So let me get this right…

      Hamilton doesn’t have the best car at the moment (first time since 2013!) but he’s still leading the championship and he thinks this is punching below his weight.

      But if they get the car sorted and it once again becomes dominant or at least consistently as good as the others he thinks this will be punching above his weight.

      I think someone needs to explain to Hamilton exactly what these phrases mean.

      Don’t give up your day job Lewis!

      1. Yes, exactly! I don’t think he thought it through.

      2. It’s not like he’s been dominant though. He did deserve the win in Australia, all things considered, but he struggled in Bahrain, he’d have lost even more ground to Vettel in China had Verstappen not spun him, and he won in Baku almost solely because he was able to stay out of trouble when everyone else seemed to get caught up in some kind of shenanigans. So yeah, he kind of has been punching below his weight. Just because he’s currently leading the championship doesn’t mean he’s been the best driver so far.

        If anyone deserves to be leading in points right now it would be either Vettel or Bottas. Even Raikkonen has been more consistent. Had it not been for the accident in the pits in Bahrain, Kimi would likely be 4 for 4 on the podium so far.

        1. Raikkonen and ricciardo did very little wrong, raikkonen first: australia good qualifying and first stint, knew it was almost impossible to overtake, slow 2nd stint, unlucky with vsc (I’d give him 9), bahrain unlucky in qualifying due to traffic and in the race due to the pit mistake (8), china a mistake in qualifying that cost him pole and quite an anonymous race, sacrificed to slow bottas and could’ve got more of a chance with soft tyres had ferrari been awake or had he been more lucky with sc (7), baku several mistakes in qualifying, instead of being on pole he was 6th, predominantly at fault for ocon crash, lucky for once in the race but generally slow to come back, also due to the soft tyres (6).

          Ricciardo australia mistake in practice which potentially (due to vsc shuffle) might’ve cost him the podium at home, for the rest flawless race (8), bahrain should not give anything given his qualifying and first few laps were ok, but he couldn’t really do much, china can’t fault him for qualifying given the problems he was coming from, however he had a very slow first part of the race and perfect 2nd part (8), baku he for once managed to beat verstappen on pace, outqualified and generally faster in the race too, which has to be a plus, the crash wasn’t his fault but there’s the last stint missing where I’d have liked to see them trying to recover 1,5 sec per lap on hamilton and overtake him with their US, not crash into each other (8 for what I saw).

      3. @nick101
        I think his point is that they don’t have a good understanding of the car/tyres, so he’s not able to get the most out of them (similar to this time last year when Bottas was also able to beat him).

    3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      10th May 2018, 20:47

      I think it is actually the case that Hamilton is not having a very good season so far. I think Australia was possibly Bottas’s worst weekend since he’s been with Mercedes, but despite that, I think he’s clearly been better than Hamilton overall when including all 4 races. And I myself as a Bottas fan didn’t expect this. I thought his bad start would weaken him. But it most certainly hasn’t. Hamilton looked reasonable in Bahrain, but was out qualified by Bottas and despite having his 5 place penalty, I’m not sure if his pace was much better than Bottas. As Bottas suddenly did go very fast once he was told to. So was clearly limiting his pace when Hamilton was catching at one stage.

      If things has just gone slightly differently in the previous 3 races, Bottas could have won all of them. The fact that just winning Baku would have very likely put him in the lead of the drivers championship clearly shows that Bottas is doing pretty well. And you can take into consideration that he basically had the same loss in China as Hamilton did in Australia. So the bad luck would have basically been even between them.

      In my view, as we know Hamilton is rarely struggling for long, this is a pretty solid line up. I don’t think it will be better for Mercedes bringing Ricciardo in. Bottas has basically been looking to do the best job possible when Hamilton has not been quite on top of him. Hamilton clearly shows a lot of respect towards Bottas even when Botats is doing better. He didn’t seem to be like this with Rosberg. And I don’t think it is because of what many people seem to say. Which is that he’s comfortable because he knows he’s far better than Bottas. After Baku, he basically admitted he had been struggling and did almost seem to admit Bottas had been managing to do better than him at the moment. While also describing that he thought he did do a good job against him last year given it was a sudden unexpected move.

      Bottas and Hamilton get on significantly better than when Rosberg was with Hamilton. I just feel this is the best option for Mercedes and think they will have Bottas confirmed for next year by the middle of this season.

      1. I disagree about Hamiltons season so far. Maybe people hold him to a higher standard but I honestly think he’s been quite solid this season.

        In Australlia he was in great form. One of the best weekends from him that I can remember until he lost the lead.

        In Bahrain he had the penalty and was outqualified by Bottas but only by 0.05 and it’s a track Rosberg beat him at during their time together. I wonder if he set up more for race pace of to help overtaking but even if he had the same set-up as Bottas, 0.05 seconds behind is hardly a poor performance.

        In the race his pace was better than Bottas as he closed down a 17 second gap to just 5. The team kept him out too long where he lost 2-3 seconds a lap for a few laps. Had they pitted him earlier he’d have been right there at the end, which when you factor in the grid drop is actually impressive.

        China was an off weekend for him. His race pace wasn’t great and neither was his qualifying. I can’t really say more than that but it was no worse than Bottas in Austrailia.

        Baku – he outqualified Bottas and was pulling away during the first stint ( had over 10 second gap when he locked up.) ok, that’s a mistake but due to the tyre life it really cost him more at Baku than most other tracks.

        Has he been flawless this season, no. But honestly other than being a little off pace in China and a lock-up in Baku he hasn’t been bad at all.

        1. Yes, I agree with what you’re saying, though this is still a relatively bad performance imo for hamilton’s standards: china was indeed an off weekend, baku was better but still lacking something, he would’ve been close to being jumped in the pits by bottas without sc, that shouldn’t happen.

          For the rest, first 2 races he was almost flawless, only his slow qualifying in bahrain I’d say.

        2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          11th May 2018, 9:27

          But if you are saying Hamilton hasn’t been that bad, then the fact that Bottas would likely be ahead of him in the championship now if it wasn’t for his retirement in Baku shows something doesn’t it? If Bottas is doing better than a not bad Hamilton even with a really bad weekend, Bottas must overall be doing extremely well. And that is why I’m not so certain. I think it is a mix of Bottas getting better and Hamilton not doing that well overall.

    4. The Justin Bieber of F1

    5. I think this year’s rule change has forced Hamilton to drive within himself. He knows he can’t go gung-ho and brake the engine again. Also i believe Mercedes micromanagment means they are trying to force a win out of Bottas, perhaps so that he’ll be a better ‘tail gunner’ for the rest of Hamilton’s season. This all means the better driver is at a disadvantage untill the garage sorts its priorities out.

      Its also handing the initiative to Ferarri aka “we’ll take our toys and go if you don’t pay us enough” – apparently they now deserve a win championship win, ‘for the good of the sport’.

      Bottom line, a great driver doesn’t just become a bad driver over night, there will be other factors.

    6. I think Hamilton has grown into a very technical driver over the years. He gets affected by the car and tyres a lot if he doesn’t quite understand whats going on, which is the case right now with W09. Last year too Bottas did well against him initially and won a race early on in Russia but once the W08 was sorted out and Hamilton got on top of the car and tyre issues he was unbeatable.

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