Grip struggles forced Hamilton’s early stop in Australia

Lewis Hamilton was forced to settle for second in Australia - Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Lewis Hamilton believed his early pit stop during the Australian Grand Prix was necessary even if it did mean losing out to Sebastian Vettel for victory on Sunday.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer made a good start from pole position at Albert Park to lead the early stages of the race but admitted that he was struggling with the grip levels on his W08 throughout the stint, and had he not made the decision to pit, Vettel would have passed him anyway.

The pit stop put him behind Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who had not pitted, and the delay behind the Dutchman was enough for Vettel to leapfrog the three time World Champion and take Scuderia Ferrari’s first victory since the Singapore Grand Prix in 2015.

“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari,” said Hamilton. “I know this win has been a long time coming for them. This shows we’ve got a real race on our hands this season and it’s a challenge we will relish. It’s going to be great for the fans.

“We had a really good start, which is fantastic. It was nice to get a good getaway. But I was struggling with grip from the get-go. Sebastian was able to always answer me in terms of lap time and just go quicker.

“Towards the end of the first stint I caught some traffic and that overheated the tyres. I struggled for grip to the point where I needed to come in, plus the gap was closing up and I was sliding around a lot.

“We made the call to pit, because otherwise I think Sebastian would have come past me anyway. After my stop I got caught in some traffic which was unfortunate but that’s motor racing.”