Lewis Hamilton: ‘I Can’t Afford Another Weekend Like Monaco’

2021 Monaco Grand Prix, Saturday - Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)
2021 Monaco Grand Prix, Saturday - Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton insists another race weekend like Monaco is not an option if he wants to succeed against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen this season.

Hamilton dropped to second place in the championship for the first time in 2021 after finishing seventh and Verstappen won.

It was not the best weekend for the seven-time world champion, who qualified seventh and failed to capitalise on Charles Leclerc‘s and teammate Valtteri Bottas‘ misfortune.

After five races, he trails Verstappen by four points in the driver standings, despite earning a bonus point for fastest lap.

“I told you at the beginning they [Red Bull] have got a championship-winning car, and they’re going to be very hard to beat.”

“I’ve been serious about it all year and we’ve won races which we shouldn’t have won, like in Bahrain, but it’s not over.”

“There’s a long long way to go, but we can’t afford another weekend like this.”

“I’m grateful I finished and got some points, fastest lap, every point you get on a bad weekend like this can hopefully count towards something at the end.”

Hamilton said he will join the team at two engineering meetings this week to better understand the issues.

“For whatever reason we couldn’t get out tyres working the way that others could,” he said.

“At the same time Red Bull have really good race pace and that’s a big, big question of how we utilise the tyres on tracks like this.

“On the last races we’ve generally been good on tyres but this one particularly we’ve been weak. That’s an area we need to understand and rectify for the future.

“This has never generally been a track for us, we have the longest car, it’s like a bus to turn through the corners, it’s not as nimble on a small track like this but it’s great elsewhere.

“There are things that don’t work here which bode well for the other circuits.

“I’m sure the guys will blow off some steam, see their families, but will be back at the factory tomorrow.

“I’ll be invited to a meeting probably Tuesday, then another one later in the week, to analyse for the next one,” concluded Hamilton.

James Allison, the team’s technical director, said Mercedes have experienced tyre temperature issues at Monaco in the past, but that the car’s overall performance advantage makes the issues less evident.

“If you are a proper anorak and you look at our team’s performance at this track over the last several seasons, you would see that in year’s where we won the championship with ease, we nevertheless struggled here,” he said.

“Although we have generally been on a path that has delivered a car that is a broad-sworded weapon that you can attack most tracks with, this circuit has been a particular Achilles heel.

“And particularly ironically, one of our car’s best weapons this year has been its usage of its tyres circuit after circuit after circuit, but at this particular track we always struggle with that and we are never really getting them happy on a Saturday.

“So our grid slots are lowly and on Sunday, although we are OK at the start of the stint, at the end of the stint when most of the crucial action takes place at this rather particular track — where there isn’t much opportunity for overtaking except for around that first stop — we are normally all out of ideas with a tyre that has died a little sooner than our competitors.

“And it’s understanding that that we have failed to do for a number of seasons, and we need to figure out from first principles what we are getting wrong and what it is that we are doing year on year that is just not right here.”

Hamilton finished in seventh position, while Bottas was on course for second place before a problem with the right front wheel nut at his pit stop forced him to retire.

“He [Bottas] was able to get the front tyres happier at the beginning of the lap than Lewis and then had more confidence to welly into the lap and take the car near the barriers, which is what you need to do to get a good lap out of the thing round here.

“So objectively there was a bit of difference between the temperature of the front tyres between the two cars, but both drivers were basically suffering with the front tyres coming into their best operating window later than the rear tyres,” concluded Allison.

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