‘I knew’: Lewis Hamilton explains when he realised victory was off the table

Sir Lewis Hamilton finished fourth in the Netherlands on Sunday.

Sir Lewis Hamilton thought that he was in contention for the win right up until the Mercedes team pitted his team-mate, George Russell.

It was one of those weekends for the seven-time champion; he was denied a chance at taking pole position by a spin for Sergio Perez, leaving him fourth for the start of the race ahead of the Mexican and Russell.

Both Mercedes drivers cleared Carlos Sainz after a slow stop and, with Red Bull sacrificing Perez to hold up the Mercedes cars after their stop, they got past him too.

This left them behind Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who were on the two-stop compared to the one for Mercedes.

READ: Breaking: AlphaTauri react to cheating claim, slam Lewis Hamilton fans for abusing employee

A Virtual Safety Car allowed them to pit and re-join ahead of Leclerc after the Monegasque had come in beforehand, but it also afforded a cheap stop for Verstappen, who had not made his second change yet.

Hamilton would then take the lead when the full Safety Car was deployed and Verstappen pitted for fresh Softs.

The 37-year-old thought that his team would keep Russell out on track so that they could both fend off Verstappen, but his heart sank when he saw the 24-year-old pit in his wing mirrors.

Suddenly, he was vulnerable on old tyres to Verstappen, who immediately got past on the restart, followed by Russell and Leclerc.

Article continues below

A potential win had been turned into a fourth-placed finish as a result of the risk Mercedes had taken, but they did at least manage their 12th podium of the season as Russell claimed second.

“It’s been such a rollercoaster ride this year, this was such a good race,” Hamilton told Racefans.net.

“The car was feeling better than it’s felt all year long, and obviously we had a difficult race last week.

“Yesterday [Sunday] up until the last corner where the yellow flag was, I was up 0.7 on everyone, so we had pace. 

“The car was different to how it’s been all year long.”

With the Briton hunting down the leaders after his first stop, he knew he was in with a shout of winning, but those dissipated as soon as Russell conceded track position by pitting.

“I got up to second, I had the hard tyre on and I was catching them and I was thinking we might be fighting for a win here and potentially a one-two,” added Hamilton.

“Then of course the Safety Cars and all that came through, the fricking emotions were all over because I knew that at that point I’d lost it before the restart. 

“I knew when everyone was on the soft tyre behind me, I knew that was it, there was no way I was going to hold them behind me.”

Hamilton’s emotions had boiled over; he told the team they had “screwed” him, so he was “p*****” at their decision, but he never meant to cause friction; he was simply at the height of his emotions in a tense moment.

“I don’t want to apologise for my passion because that’s just how I’m made and I don’t always get it right,” he explained.

“I am sorry for my team for what I said because it was just in the heat of the moment.

“But I want to look at the glass half-full, we’ve got so many positives to take this weekend. 

“Yes we got fourth in the end, but the car felt great.

“If the car feels like this in the other races we’re going to be fighting for a win, and that’s amazing.

“The pit stops were great, this is the fastest pit stops I think the team had done all year. 

“Honestly, I was so geed up from that I thought these guys are on it, we’re on it, the strategy is great. 

READ: George Russell and Max Verstappen dismiss Lewis Hamilton’s claim

“But anyway, we’ve just got keep looking forwards and hope for a better race next.”

Sainz ended up P8 after he received a penalty for an unsafe release in another day of Ferrari blunders.

Mercedes have now closed the gap to the Scuderia back to 30 points in the fight for second in the Constructors’ Standings.