Max Verstappen, Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2023

Hamilton “back to my best” in qualifying but McLaren “too quick for us” in race

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said he felt back to his best for the first time in over a year this weekend but doesn’t believe he could have finished second in Hungary.

The Mercedes driver took pole position for the first time since 2021 on Saturday. He has said he feels more comfortable in Mercedes’ revised car which is allowing him to drive with more confidence.

“I haven’t been at my best for over a year,” said Hamilton. “So I think yesterday felt like I was back to being my best.”

Hamilton lost his lead to Max Verstappen immediately after the start. He was also passed by the two McLaren drivers, which left him fourth.

Although Hamilton regained one place from Oscar Piastri, he was unable to prevent Sergio Perez getting past him, and missed out on a podium finish as a result.

He said the team’s pre-race strategy briefing indicated they would not be quick enough to beat Red Bull, and the race showed McLaren were too fast for them as well.

“I think it’s obvious that we’re not the quickest,” he said. “We don’t have the quickest car and I’m really proud of myself and the job that we did yesterday to get pole position, to outperform the world champion and the other two cars that were quicker than us.

“Today, it’s reality. The reality is we’re not fast enough. They already told me in strategy this morning I would be at least five tenths [per lap] slower than the Red Bull. So the fight’s not with Max but [we were] hoping that we could fight the McLarens, but the second McLaren was too quick for us also.”

Losing three places at the start hurt his chances of finishing on the podium, Hamilton admitted. “I think we may have been able to finish third with a slightly better start, but fourth is still okay,” he said. “Max got a better start than me. I just got a bit of wheelspin and a bit compromised after that.”

He found his car performed better towards the end of the race, but fell short of catching Perez by one-and-a-half seconds.

“We were just too slow in the first two stints,” said Hamilton. “The balance was not good, the car was just slow. Then the balance picked up a lot at the end, and all of a sudden I was able to apply the pressure, but it was too late.”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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17 comments on “Hamilton “back to my best” in qualifying but McLaren “too quick for us” in race”

  1. So Lewis thinks it’s only the car that makes the difference…
    His inconsistent driving during the race went unnoticed, by Lewis
    He really had an lousy start and losing three places in three corners does not bode well.
    Looks like a generation problem.

    1. To be fair he lost the places due to being stuck in the corner next the max. Landon Also got stuck which is how piastri got into second…

      The rest of the race he genuinely appeared to be in a much slower car until the end where both mercsnseemed to come alive.

      1. Lewis put himself there – why was he still fighting Max into turn 1 while with all his experience he knew perfectly well already ahead of that corner that he lost 1st with Max alongside on the inside.
        Also by pushing Max so far to 1 side he opened the door for others on the other side as well as putting Max and himself on the dirty side he increased the chance/risk that both would go a bit wider into turn 1.

        For those that claim Max pushed Lewis wide, please just have a look again – in the middle of the corner Lewis is in the middle of the track and Max is just a little wide from the normal racing line. Norris is to the other side of Lewis.
        By the time that Max follows the normal racing line to the outside of the track, he is fully ahead of Lewis. Interestingly by that time, taking a tighter line, Piastri is level with Lewis but with more space to accelerate out of the corner. He braked earlier or slowed more to get a sharper turn and is on the power earlier than both Max and Lewis.

    2. A problem that presumably applies to Max too since he’s had his own less than stellar start from pole?

      1. There was a difference as you paid attention;)

    3. With a car 0.5 to 1 s faster than any other he would of course have won. Half of the grid would have won with what Verstappen called his rocketship.

      1. Except for Checo

    4. both lewis and russell were told to lift and coast from the beginning

    5. “I haven’t been at my best for over a year,” said Hamilton. “So I think yesterday felt like I was back to being my best.”

      Right there. Third paragraph. How is that Lewis saying it’s all the car?

  2. Back to his best? And yet this is dispite him having no ‘feeling’ for the car, eg his position at the fore of the car. I guess he is starting to get use to it, orhe is pushing himself despite this flaw in the car’s chassis design.

  3. His first laps on the hard tyre were so bad he would very likely get passed had he not lost the positions at the first lap anyway. The gap to Piastri went to 11 secs out of nowhere.

    P3 was probably the best there was at the table today. Had they called him for tyres a bit earlier and he might have gotten Perez. They prepared the strategy to get Piastri, but he dropped like a rock by himself on the last stint.

    1. Joe Pineapples
      23rd July 2023, 18:53


  4. Sorry Lewis – Mercedes was the 2nd fastest car in Hungary – you just didn’t deliver what was possible.

    Yes no real chance you could have kept Max behind but there was no need to drop behind both Mclaren’s at the start – you just focused to much on fighting Max instead of accepting 1st was lost as soon as Max was next to you on the inside.

    If you see that Russell finished 3.2 seconds behind Piastri despite starting 18th – it shows the Mercedes was faster. Your own 3rd stint also showed the Mercedes had more pace – weirdly you failed to unlock that particularly after your 1st stop. You should have gained 1-2 seconds with the undercut yet you lost 4-5 seconds.

    That is the real problem with Lewis, most criticize Max for being blunt/direct (he isn’t really just Dutch culture is more direct than most) but he is honest and says what he really feels/thinks. With Lewis it is also PR talk, always political, most of time not telling the truth, not the whole story or a twisted version. Also when Lewis does well it is all happy, grateful and look how great I am yet when things are going less well it is always horrific, terrible and throwing everything except himself under the bus.

    The Mercedes was fast enough for 2nd today – Lewis failed to deliver that – nothing more or less.

  5. I felt he and his team were too conservative this race. I feel they should have started on Soft tyres if they had any available sets, because they seemed to be the best team who can handle soft tyres in the early stints. I don’t know what happened in the first laps of the H tyre stint, but that looked like some laziness there or maybe he was just slowly bringing the tyres. They still think they have the W10 tyre performance superiority to execute these strategies. They don’t, they need to start being aggressive when fighting at the front, and not just only when they were in Austria by the midfield in the sprint race.

    1. Sainz certainly showed those softs worked pretty decent, although I am not too sure Russel could have done much better in the end (although he was helped a bit as well by Ferrari again messing up) @krichelle.

      With Lewis – I agree that there was probably more pace to be found in the car this race, but maybe the heat was again a bit of an achilles heel for the car.

    2. they had to lift and coast from the beginning but you are spot on with the rest of your statement. they need to be aggressive and do alternate strategies as they have nothing to loose

      1. actually they remotely turned down his engine. which makes one wonder, how real is the racing when engine modes can be remoty administered.

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