Lewis Hamilton took full responsibility for the penultimate lap clash with Alexander Albon in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix that saw the World Champion take a penalty that relegated him from third to seventh in the final classification.
The Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver had been on the back foot for much of the afternoon at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace due to the pace of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and in particular Max Verstappen, but after a late gamble on a pit stop after the deployment of the safety car, he found himself running fourth with just a couple of laps remaining.
He was able to jump Pierre Gasly on the restart to run third but made a lunge against Albon that ultimately saw the Mercedes driver spin around the Red Bull driver, denying the Thai driver his maiden podium finish in the process.
“It was a great race, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was hopefully fun for people to watch, although the result is upsetting,” said Hamilton. “I never want to collide with anyone, it was really unfortunate with Alex.
“Naturally I take it on me, it was my fault, I was coming from behind. He was doing a great job, so apologies to him.”
Hamilton lost time to Gasly again thanks to the incident but was unable to get back ahead of the Frenchman as the two race to the chequered flag, but it all became incidental afterwards as he was handed a five-second time penalty that relegated him down to seventh and promoted Carlos Sainz Jr. to the podium.
The six-time World Champion admitted that he gave as much as he could during the race in Brazil but just didn’t have the same kind of speed that Verstappen and Red Bull did, with the Dutchman twice passing Hamilton down the start/finish straight to take the lead.
“I gave it absolutely everything and more today, I was pushing so hard in every lap just to keep up with Max in front of me,” admitted the Briton. “We really didn’t have a lot of pace today and I think we were probably going faster than we should have gone.
“Congratulations to Red Bull, they did the better job today and deserved the win. They were extremely quick today, I was basically a sitting duck on the straights. There’s one more race to go in this season, so we will be pushing for a better result in Abu Dhabi.”
‘Tricky race’ even before retirement – Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas was having a low-key Brazilian Grand Prix, only for him to suffer a rare mechanical issue that saw him become the first retirement of the day, high oil consumption being blamed on his smoky demise.
The Finn, who has already confirmed his second place in the Drivers’ Championship behind Hamilton, says he would have enjoyed being part of the action towards the end of the race rather than watching it from the side-lines.
“It was a tricky race overall, even before I had to retire the car,” said Bottas. “The pace wasn’t quite there today, so we will have to investigate that.
“I was aiming to do a one-stop and go to the end on the Hard tyres, but I had to pit again as we were concerned that the tyres wouldn’t last until the end. It’s obviously not ideal to switch strategies like that, but it didn’t really matter in the end as I didn’t finish the race.
“I don’t know the details yet, I just suddenly lost power, so we will have look into that and see what caused it. It was very disappointing especially since there was a lot happening afterwards, so it would have been nice to be a part of that action.
“I’m now looking forward to the race in Abu Dhabi, we want to come back strong and finish the season on a high.”
James Allison reflects on ‘disappointing Day’
With Toto Wolff absent, Technical Director James Allison was amongst the most senior employees of Mercedes in Brazil, but he admitted the whole day was a disappointing one for the team, with mistakes being made on one side of the garage and uncharacteristic mechanical issues affecting the other car.
Allison felt Red Bull had the advantage throughout, and the gamble to pit Hamilton from second cost them some time and put the Briton into the position that would ultimately see him collide with Albon and earn himself a penalty. Coupled with the early retirement of Bottas, it was not a day to remember for Mercedes.
“It was a very disappointing day – a day where we made some mistakes, where we suffered very uncharacteristic unreliability on one car and turned what should have been a decent result into a DNF for Valtteri and a disappointing finish for Lewis,” said Allison.
“The simple answer is that we weren’t as quick as the Red Bulls today. We were reaching a bit in the end and we paid the price for doing something that was too optimistic – we brought in Lewis for a set of fresh tyres right at the end of the race and lost some places as a result of that and also got tangled up in an accident that was an indirect consequence of that call.
“Valtteri suffered from an oil consumption issue earlier on in the race and we were monitoring it, but it got worse and ended his race prematurely. Overall a very disappointing weekend for us, we want to put it behind us and move on to Abu Dhabi to put it right there and hopefully finish the season in fine style.”