Sir Lewis Hamilton’s Dutch Grand Prix was almost over before it had really gotten underway, after the seven-time World Champion made contact with Carlos Sainz at the first corner of the race.
The Mercedes driver went for a gap on the inside of Sainz at the first turn; however, the gap quickly disappeared as Sainz hit the apex on the corner’s exit.
Hamilton and Sainz both immediately thought they’d made contact, but Ferrari told Sainz that everything was okay.
Hamilton was convinced he had damage but was told by the team that his W13 was fine.
The only issue the 37-year-old had was some damage to his front wing endplate; however, this wasn’t anything to be worried about by any means.
Mercedes’ head of trackside engineering, Andrew Shovlin, revealed the process that takes place when a driver asks if they have damage, something they try to establish as quickly as possible.
“You will have heard him come on the radio and say that he had made contact and asked us to check the car,” said Shovlin.
“What we can do then is we can look at the tyre pressures, we can see that the tyre is holding air in it so we know that we haven’t got a puncture and the other thing is we are looking at all the aero sensors on the car trying to establish if there is damage.
“Now, the damage wasn’t very significant in terms of performance, but we did have damage to the front wing endplate which would have been costing in balance and a little bit of downforce on the car.”
Remarkably, Shovlin explained that Hamilton actually had more damage than originally thought, with the British driver’s opening pit-stop having revealed something that could’ve been incredibly costly.
After taking off Hamilton’s first set of tyres, the team discovered that the Brit had a cut in his front-left tyre, something that could’ve so easily caused a puncture.
Shovlin explained that the cut in the tyre could’ve become a “serious problem”, as it would’ve forced the 103-time GP winner into the pits at the end of the opening lap.
“The other thing is we had a cut in the tyre that we didn’t know about until we got the tyre back at the end of that stint,” said Shovlin.
“Now, luckily that didn’t cause a puncture, but it would have been very close to causing a serious problem bringing Lewis in on lap one.”
Hamilton went on to finish fourth at Zandvoort, after being a sitting duck in the final few laps of the race after being on a weaker tyre to the top four.
A late Safety Car saw Hamilton move into the race lead, after Max Verstappen pitted for a set of Softs.
The Brit continued on old Mediums, which left him at the mercy of Verstappen, team-mate George Russell and Charles Leclerc, who also pitted for Softs.
It was a demoralising end to the race for Hamilton, who at one point looked to be in the mix for his first victory of the season.