Lewis Hamilton fears he has little chance of beating Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix later this month after being soundly outpaced at the Austrian GP on Sunday. Verstappen won after an unchallenged run from pole to flag and Hamilton, who was fourth, believes the gulf his Mercedes team must make up is likely to be too great to overcome by the next round at Silverstone.
At the Red Bull Ring Hamilton was unable to take the fight to the Dutchman, first held up as he tried to pass McLaren’s Lando Norris, who finished third, and then again when his car sustained floor damage and lost considerable downforce, dropping him from second to fourth place.
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, believed Hamilton could have clung on to second but still would not have had the speed to challenge Verstappen. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, finished 18 seconds behind the 23-year-old, who would have enjoyed an even greater advantage but for a late extra stop to fit fresh tyres to take the fastest lap.
Mercedes have shifted their resources to working on their 2022 car but are bringing some upgrades to Silverstone. However, Red Bull are still fiercely developing this year’s car and Hamilton was not optimistic that the 140,000 fans expected at Silverstone, the biggest UK sporting event since the start of the Covid pandemic, will see him celebrating an eighth victory at his home grand prix.
“We have a little bit [of upgrades] coming but it’s not going to close the gap enough, so we’ve got to do some more work,” he said. “We are praying for a different scenario in the next race but you look at their car and it is just on rails. We’re giving it absolutely everything, these past two weeks I’ve been to the factory, each race, trying to extract as much as I can from the car.”
Hamilton trails Verstappen by 32 points in the world championship with Red Bull 44 points ahead of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. Hamilton has not won for five races and this is the largest deficit to the championship lead he has faced since 2017, when he was 20 points behind Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes have won the past seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships and Hamilton is attempting to take his eighth drivers’ title. This is the hardest challenge they have faced in that time, much of which has been characterised by a considerable dominance. Now they have a real fight Wolff said there was absolutely no sense of writing off this year’s challenge.
“We never resign any battle, it’s the last thing we do,” he said. “All these years I have tried to keep our feet on the ground and not be carried away with performance. Now I need to do the opposite.
“ We are not going to give up at this stage of the season and we are not going to give up at any stage until it is mathematically impossible to win this championship.”