Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2021

Hamilton: We’ve done as well as we could against the strongest car

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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[raceweekendpromotion]Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull have clearly had the strongest car this year, and Mercedes have done well to stay close to them in the championship fight.

With four races remaining, Max Verstappen has won nine rounds to Hamilton’s five. The Red Bull driver leads his rival by 19 points, while Mercedes have a one-point lead in constructors’ championship.

Hamilton said the challenge he faces to reverse his deficit over the remaining races is “as steep as it can be.”

Verstappen was almost 20 seconds ahead of him in the closing stages of Sunday’s Mexico City Grand Prix, before backing off to take victory. “Their pace was phenomenal in the last race,” said Hamilton.

“They’ve had a strong car all year, they’ve had the strongest car, you can tell, obviously. So I think we’ve done as good we could.

“We’ll definitely be pushing this weekend to see if we can squeeze any more of the car. Last time here they were incredibly strong so we anticipate again, they’ll be very hard to beat this weekend. But when there’s a will, there’s a way, hopefully.”

Having dominated the 2020 championship, Mercedes have been less competitive this year following changes to the technical regulations. “This year, obviously, we’ve had our wings clipped, so it’s definitely been harder from an operational standpoint to maximise the car,” said Hamilton.

The W12 has been “a bit harder to set up this year” compared to its predecessor, he said. “It’s really difficult to explain, there’s too many elements to go into in terms of detail. It’s just a harder car to optimise.

“Some weekends it works, some weekends it doesn’t. To land on the ground with the simulations in the right place is just a little bit harder this year.

“But I think it’s similar for others. We saw in Austin for example the Red Bulls were quite far off and then all of a sudden they switched it around. But getting the maximum potential out of the car has been harder this year.”

If Verstappen beats him to victory this weekend, the Red Bull driver will be able to take the title by finishing second to Hamilton in all of the remaining races. But the Mercedes driver doesn’t believe winning this weekend is any more important than it was in previous rounds.

“Every race is a must-win race,” he said. “It’s been a must-win race since forever. Particularly since we came back from the break. But we’ve not really managed to be able to do so.”

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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57 comments on “Hamilton: We’ve done as well as we could against the strongest car”

  1. So I think we’ve done as good we could.

    Implying that rectifying errors such as Imola, Monaco, Hungary, Baku are beyond His and his team’s capabilities.

    1. I agree – before the season there was an article here that asked who would be the biggest threat to Mercedes this year, and I said it was Mercedes. That has proven to be the case – even if Hamilton had finished second in Baku and won Hungary (I think he’d have won both, without the errors) he’d be six points ahead of Verstappen rather than 19 behind. That’s even allowing for the Imola error, which didn’t cost him anything in the end, and Monaco where he was just slow.

      1. This. If he had played his cards better he could maybe clinch the title with a weaker car (although this is all relative since if Red Bull had two Sergio Perez’s on their team, we would say Mercedes have the stronger car) like Alonso almost did around ten years ago.
        Still it is not over yet, I’m always weary of crowning someone the champion if they have less than a 26 points lead before the last race.

        1. “ this is all relative since if Red Bull had two Sergio Perez’s on their team, we would say Mercedes have the stronger car“

          True , and if Merc had two Bottas’s , we would say RB is strongest.

          There is just not much between those cars. Eg Merc had a bigger pace advantage in Monza over RB than RB had in Mexico.
          Due to errors they didn’t convert it to a 1-2.

      2. No, this is far fetched. In Baku Hamilton was always trailing Red Bulls home – it was a string of lucky events that brought him the opportunity to attack the lead of the race at which point he made that mistake. (btw Verstappen made pretty much same mistake during start of French GP – it was just the track layout that was different) Bottas spent whole race on 11th-14th positions during that race.

        Also blaming Hamilton/driver for the restart in Hungary is strange. He was the leading driver, the team was open to suggest/order him to pit & they did not. He was the leading driver and had most to lose of all the drivers.

        We can agree on that Hamilton should have been closer in points at this point, but this whole situation is only on the table because of Verstappen retirements in four races (counting Hungary where he scored two points though) compared to Hamilton´s one. The fact is also that Mercedes car seems to struggle more in some situations (in dirty air in general & in some conditions as well – you mentioned Hamilton in Monaco but it was also Bottas in many races especially in early season). On the other hand I can only think of handful of instances where Verstappen sounded like struggling with his car (in Portugal GP & during Italian and Russian GPs where he struggled due to traffic & tyres).

        Verstappen has led 53% of all laps this year. That is I think the best indicator of how well Verstappen & Red Bull have done so far.

    2. Monza also would have been a straight forward win without the bad start in the sprint. So I don’t deny Redbull has had the fastest car overall, but given the bad luck Max has had Lewis still had the opportunity to have a big points lead at this stage if he’d maximised every opportunity. Granted that is a tall order, and no driver ever has a perfect season, but its still true. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t expect any competitor to be dwelling on those technicalities while the competition is still ongoing.

      1. Max had a bad start too. But he had it in the race. And it cost him the lead. RedBull mechanics mistake also cost him as well. Perhaps under pressure from McLaren.

  2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    12th November 2021, 8:25

    How the tables have turned. In the previous seasons, Hamilton didn’t want to know anything about Mercedes havign the best car and it was all because of his holyness that they became champion. But now that there is a car-contender (which may or may not be the best on the grid, really still depends on the track), all of a sudden he’s on-board that train.

    Can’t bet them, join them I guess.

    1. “Hamilton didn’t want to know anything about Mercedes havign the best car and it was all because of his holyness that they became champion.”

      What a very strange post, one that is usually echo’d by people who dislike him. Dispite Lewis stating after every single pole and win that he couldn’t have done it without ‘this awesome team and all the people back at the factory’

      1. Nofanboysplease
        12th November 2021, 11:42

        That’s something different than acknowledge that you drove the fastest car

      2. Yes, but he’s still got those awesome people and probably the best car on the grid or at least very, very close second (does anyone here really think, at least intimately, that Verstappen would be slow in this Mercedes?). Now he’s distancing himself from his car and I really don’t think it’s down to his car. Besides, if him and Bottas didn’t kick Verstappen off the road two times in a row he’d be out of the race by now. Not to mention Verstappen’s exploded tire which cost him 25 points out of the blue. No matter whose fan you are (if a fan at all, I’m not), I don’t think anyone can realistically claim that if Hamilton loses the title that’s because of a car. If that’s the case, then he didn’t deserve a single title, since he had such a dominant car for years, something Verstappen never had; he had to fight against such a car and he did pretty well all things considered.

    2. Why are you so angry @barryfromdownunder?

      In my opinion I don’t agree with Lewis saying they have maximised because they clearly haven’t – they have still done very well, but not as well as Max this season who has pretty much maximised his chances.

      Why was it all about his holyness? I mean you have some serious issues going on for an F1 driver to irk you so much. Calm down man.

  3. They are closer than they should be, but also further than they should.

    I think Lewis made some clear mistakes during the year, which is uncharacteristic of him. Or either, him being pushed brought those forward, as it’s a fact he’s been having it easy since halfway through 2018 (or even before that to an extent).

    The car is clearly not as strong as the Red Bull, but specially in the first half of the year, the points tally could’ve been higher.

    1. How could you say ‘clearly not as strong’

      For Mexico , you are right. But there have been circuits that Merc has had a clear upperhand. In fact , since the summer break they had the quickest car on majority of circuits.

      1. nah, det not true.
        They were clearly stronger in Monza and Turkey and that’s it. COTA would be a piece of cake for RB had verstappen kept the lead at the start.

        Verstappen didn’t had a shot at the win in Silverstone, Hungary and Russia, but he might very well have won all those races based on the pace he had. Add Bahrein to that in which he just didnt win for overtaking off the track and Baku with that blown tyre.

        Mercedes had two little moments of superiority, in portugal-spain and then Italy and Turkey. They could’ve won more races with better strategy and luck, but not many more.

        Verstappen and Red Bull were clearly the class of the field all year.

        1. COTA should have been a Merc win on pace. RB outsmarted them with the undercut for track position.

          1. Red Bull had much more pace on medium tyres and was all over Hamilton on the first stint. That’s even what gave them the idea to an alternate strategy. If he had kept the lead he would have just pulled away like many other times this year.

    2. Lewis made some clear mistakes during the year, which is uncharacteristic of him. Or either, him being pushed brought those forward,

      Those factors seem even bigger than any potential car strength difference.
      He made many more mistakes (or less stellar races) than during previous seasons. But also we hear him panting much more over the radio. That can be either that he is struggling more to get to his previous heights and/or that he has to push the car harder.

      1. I think he’s probably worn out and losing some of his edge. It happens to everyone as you approach 40 unfortunately, even Alonso has had a few more senior moments than in his youth. I can vouch for this myself also.

      2. Some say he has long covid.. But not confirmed.

    3. I agree that they are closer than they should be. Without the red flags at Imola and Silverstone HAM would likely be 50 points behind and we’d be talking title clinching scenarios for Max this weekend.

  4. Both Mercedes and Hamilton haven’t been on it. They made too many mistakes in a season where they couldn’t afford to make those mistakes.
    And if it wasn’t Silverstone and Hungary this years titles would have already been in the bag for Red Bull.

  5. I think the comments above are negligent. Lewis did make 2-3 mistakes this year but so did Max. Also calling Baku and Monaco mistakes means one pretty much does not know F1.

    Red Bull have clearly had a superior car in most of the races this year. Lewis would have won in the RedBull much easier than Max has if the places were swapped (he would have won the initial races that Redbull threw away as well).

    I just hope we have more than 2 drivers fighting for the championship from the next year.

    1. Lewis did waaay more than 2-3 mistakes this year – just out the top of my head I counted 11-12 – and Max did way less.

      In Monaco his setup was all over the place and started 7th while Bottas started 3rd just 1 tenth off Max.
      In Baku he was on course to finish 2nd-3rd, then Max’s tyre exploded and after that, Lewis could have won, but because he (and he alone) did the mistake of turning off the ‘brake magic’, he finished out of the points.

      Red Bull had the superior car in like 5-6 races, and Mercedes did have that as well in like 5-6 races as well… the rest were closely matched and could have gone either way.
      From the initial races Red Bull could only have won also in Bahrain – the rest (Portugal, Spain) were out of the question.

      1. I could count the 5-6 with Red Bull. Imola, Monaco, Azerbaijan, Styria, Austria, Netherlands, Mexico would be my picks.

        What races would you name as 5-6 for Mercedes? I could name 4 at max.

        1. @kotrba
          Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Spa, Monza, Turkey, Russia, UK, USA. (That’s 2 sprintraces for Mercedes to)
          Imola was evenly matched.

          There you go.

        2. Merc had a clear advantage (albeit only a couple of tenths) in Spain, Portugal & Hungary.

          They had a significant advantage in Italy, Russia & Turkey (at least 3-4 tenths).

          1. I agree with your second sentence. I would add Portugal to the second list.

            On the other hand if you mention Spain & Hungary, then you should add Bahrain and France to RB tracks).

          2. On the other hand if you mention Spain & Hungary, then you should add Bahrain and France to RB tracks).

            And add Silverstone and Belgium to Mercedes

        3. Red Bull wasnt stronger in Monaco or Imola. Bottas was matching Verstappen in Monaco until his never concluded pitstop and Lewis was catching verstappen once it dried up a bit in Imola before he hit the wall while lapping Russell.

          1. Bottas never threatened Verstappen in the race. As he was pitting the gap was between 5 to 6 seconds, so far outside any undercut range. In Imola both RB cars were on course to pole lap time before putting wheels into grass. Until his mistake Hamilton has not been in striking range – 3 second gap is quite a lot still in the context of this season.

        4. As others mentioned: Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Turkey are the tracks where Mercedes had a clear advantage.
          And I would put: Azerbaijan, Styria, Austria, Netherlands, Mexico as the clear RB tracks.

          The rest can be categorized as lean-RB (like France), lean-Mercedes (like Spain) tracks or equal tracks (like Monaco).

    2. Lewis did make 2-3 mistakes this year but so did Max.

      You probably can make a comparison list about these.
      Please enlighten us.

    3. So true. Sort of when a cramped Russell stepped in a small and unfamiliar Merc cockpit in Bahrain last year. He could never have “done a Lewis” . You know, immediately pass your team-mate who took pole, then dominate the race in style and with ease, in total control. Dream on George. And dream on Max, you’ll never get to the level Lewis had when he was 24.
      Young superstars beating ‘old’ superstars ? Yeah right. What’s next ?

  6. Max has been absolutely Clinical :)

  7. Seeing how title might indeed slip away in the end, now he has engaged a narrative that not only is the Red Bull a stronger car it is the STRONGEST. In actual fact while Red Bull has been a faster car on some of the tracks it has not in any way been the strongest car for the duration of the season. If anything Mercedes has been the faster car in race trim for the majority of the season.

    1. Paul Villanueva
      12th November 2021, 18:03

      I Agree, Cars have been pretty even, some tracks were Redbulls, some other were Mercedes, But engine wise I believe Mercedes still have the advntage.

  8. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    12th November 2021, 11:51

    Based on Hamilton’s logic with this statement he should equally admit that he only won his 7 WDC because I had the best and fastest car.
    Impossible for him to honestly claim that the advantage the Mercedes had in last 7 seasons is less than his now questionable claim that Red Bull is faster this season.

    Over the entire season the Red Bull is on par, on the harder race tyre more likely to be slightly behind the Mercedes. Additionally Hamilton has a more consistent #2 driver and more luck (or less bad luck) this season.
    So the only reason he is 19 points behind are his own errors and not fully extracting the maximum out of the car.

    1. +1

      HAM has at least as many chances as VET had back in 2017 and 2018 so, if he loses…….

  9. petebaldwin (@)
    12th November 2021, 12:01

    @jelle-van-der-meer – Yeah I’ve found it strange all year. When he loses to Max, he always says “they had a faster car so there was absolutely nothing I could have done to beat them.” That means that other than his title win for McLaren, his large amount of titles have been won solely by being better than Rosberg and Bottas which makes things look a lot less impressive.

    If I was Lewis, I’d be going out of my way to explain how well Max was doing this year and bring the narrative back around to the idea that the driver is what makes the difference!

    1. ” When he loses to Max, he always says “they had a faster car so there was absolutely nothing I could have done to beat them.”

      Which is exactly what Verstappen says in his post race interviews when hes beaten by Hamilton.

      Let’s stop picking and chosing what we wanna hear.

      1. The difference is Hamilton says it every single week/time he loses

      2. But Lewis is better than Max …no?

    2. Because he knows his faster than Max.

  10. Yep, Lewis. It’s the strongest car that wins championships.
    Well spotted, that man.

  11. Didn’t Ferrari have the best car in 17,18 and 19? This is business as usual more or less?

  12. Mark in Florida
    12th November 2021, 12:53

    We’ve done as well as we can against the strongest car. That’s what everybody in F1 has said if they weren’t driving on Toto’s squad!

  13. The strongest car for years , big chance its still the strongest. They are being outsmarted and outdriven. It’s not the car

  14. F1 is not really a driver’s competition. If you want that, participate or watch (depending on who you are) another series.

    F1 is an engineering competition that has a lot of lure (money, glory, etc) to get some of the best drivers, but it is not really a sport to compare drivers. It is to compare teams…in particular, engineering teams.

    So when drivers or fans hint that it would be better otherwise, just add some other series to your palette. Enjoy F1 for what it is. Enjoy IndyCar, or KF1 for that matter, what what they are. (and really, the purest, best elite level racing on 4 wheels I’ve seen has been FA, and then KF1).

    1. Well I would agree but…

      I raced 250 national and intercontinental on short and long circuits…

      You need to experience that before dedicating pure racing classes…

      Even F1 drivers ( Coulthard – valentine Rossi, numerous wsbk racers and others) have agreed it’s absolutely the raw edge of racing four wheels

      I raced the equivalent of kf etc for a season – frantic, a good year for me actually but it must be said – 160mph an inch off the ground at thruxton with 30 others around you or running the edge of paddock at Brands with 40 other nutters at the start.
      Even Craner Curves at Donnington in the wet where it’s just a knife edge… no belts no nothing other than leather and a helmet – well, that’s where it was at

      That’s raw racing at its best…

  15. I wonder how this season would have gone if Hamilton was driving like he did in 2018 when he demolished Vettel. I think the Ferarri that year and the Red Bull this year have that very small overall marginal pace advantage compared to the respective Mercedes, but Hamilton just has not been at that level this year.

  16. Looking at the races so far, this is my personal take on who’s been quicker at each weekend in terms of one-lap pace (race pace):

    Bahrain: Red Bull (Mercedes)
    Imola: Red Bull (N/A)
    Portimao: Mercedes (Mercedes)
    Spain: Mercedes (Mercedes)
    Monaco: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    Baku: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    France: Red Bull (Mercedes)
    Styria: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    Austria: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    Silverstone: Mercedes (Red Bull)
    Hungary: Mercedes (N/A)
    Belgium: N/A
    Zandvoort: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    Monza: Mercedes (Mercedes)
    Sochi: Mercedes (Mercedes)
    Turkey: Mercedes (Mercedes)
    USA: Red Bull (Red Bull)
    Mexico: Red Bull (Red Bull)

    So it is 10 vs. 7 to Red Bull on one-lap pace and 8 vs. 7 in race pace. This is consistent with what we would expect. Max should, in theory, be considerably further ahead in the championship. Hamilton isn’t wrong when he says Red Bull has perhaps been marginally quicker. Where he is wrong is in saying they’ve done the best they could. Imola, Monaco, Paul Ricard, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Monza (shouldn’t have been 4th on the grid in the first place), Turkey were all races where they didn’t maximize their points or chances. That’s far too many.

    1. This is consistent with what we would expect. Max should, in theory, be considerably further ahead in the championship.

      VER lost at least 25 points at Silverstone and Hungaroring so, yes, should have had a significanly bigger advantage now.

    2. In my opinion, VER-RBR combo were marginally better, and if HAM won’t manage to push the title battle down to the last race is mainly because his age is already showing a little bit + because he’s facing the best driver overall from the grid, excepting him.

    3. This looks like a very fair assessment. It also seems to be consistent with the various different graphics people have come up with. Some even have the Mercs ahead of the RB. The point is, the difference has been quite marginal. Lewis has been pushing this narrative all season long, I suspect it is to mess with Max’s head. I suppose we will find out after the season how he truly feels.

    4. RedBull had stronger race pace in France. This was why they won out at the pitstops.

      Spain was won on Mercedes strategy and clean air. Race Pace there wasn’t the factor. RedBull engine was also detuned in the early races.

      Portimao was a RedBull setup issue and the fact Max made a mistake that Lewis took advtantage of.

  17. No, RBR was not the strongest car, not in most circuits.

    And you could have done way, way better.

    You simply went against a pretty good racer without an overwhelming machinery advantage

    You are just about average and now it clearly shows.

    Sorry, Lew, nobody is buying your BS anymore. Go get yourself another crane.

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