Mercedes boss defends Lewis Hamilton in Austria

Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell gave the Mercedes team a lot of work to do overnight after crashing during qualifying in Spielberg.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has gone into detail about the work that was going on in the garage overnight to get the cars fixed after a tough qualifying.

Both George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton crashed during the final phase of qualifying on Friday to set the grid for the sprint race on Saturday, meaning a lot of work for the mechanics to do to repair the damage.

The impacts left Russell fifth, with Hamilton eighth after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was penalised for exceeding track limits, and the patching up work was visible to see on the grid before the start of Saturday’s sprint.

There were so many bits and pieces on the garage floor that Wolff described it as a Lego building session.

READ: 2022 Austrian GP: Stewards reach verdict regarding George Russell penalty

“Yesterday in the garage, in the early evening, it looked really like somebody dropped a Lego car on the floor,” he said.

The crashes were a shame for the Silver Arrows, who were looking as though they might have the pace to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari.

“We had a competitive car, the last few corners that Lewis attacked were the fastest overall,” explained Wolff.

“Will we have fought for pole position? I’m not sure, but we would have been maybe within a tenth, a tenth and a half of the frontrunners… on a circuit where our car really wasn’t that good before, so that’s an improvement.

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“I’d rather have two cars in the wall fighting for pole than a car that is P8 and drives ‘Steady Eddie’.”

As for what caused the accidents, there was a suspicion that wind took the seven-time champion’s car as he lost the rear at Turn Seven, but the Austrian simply put it down to the drivers feeling capable of pushing harder than before in a misbehaving car.

“The car is still tricky to drive and now that we can actually fight for front positions, I’m really happy to see that they attack,” explained Wolff.

“Lewis the corner before was carrying 10km/h more speed and made Turn 6 and then he is carrying 10km/h more speed into and didn’t make the corner.

“The same a little bit for George. He saw that he was up on his delta time.

READ: Lewis Hamilton reveals if driver error caused Austrian GP qualifying crash

“That was a particular strength of his previous rounds, and it went too far.

“So, whether there was wind or any other conditions, I think the summary is the car is tricky to drive but it’s faster now and for me that’s absolutely OK.”

Russell maintained fourth in the sprint, holding a healthy gap back to Perez, who climbed up to P5, and Hamilton eventually recovered to eighth to take the final point.

The 37-year-old needed to recover back up the order himself after contact with Pierre Gasly as they approached Turn One on the opening lap, but he cleared the Haas of Mick Schumacher late on to snatch a result from a difficult day.

Hamilton often found himself being out-dragged by the Haas as he endeavoured to pass the German, so Wolff was “disappointed” that his team were “lacking pace” once again this weekend.