Hamilton lambasts 'silly' Red Bull claims of 'gamesmanship' - The Race
Formula 1

Hamilton lambasts ‘silly’ Red Bull claims of ‘gamesmanship’

Jul 31 2021

Lewis Hamilton has dismissed suggestions his Mercedes team used “gamesmanship” to make sure of its front row lock-out in the Hungarian Grand Prix as “silly”.

The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez wound up behind Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas on their out-laps in the final minutes of Q3, and only Verstappen managed to start a lap in time – with Perez taking the chequered flag earlier than intended.

The Mexican told his missing out was a result of “gamesmanship” on the radio, and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner echoed the point in talking to Sky Sports F1, expressing a belief that Hamilton – who led a Mercedes 1-2, in the end, courtesy of his initial lap in Q3 – was focusing on the cars behind.

Asked whether he’d had a “gripe” with Mercedes over its late Q3 conduct, Horner said: “Not really, it’s a bit of gamesmanship, Lewis had a hell of a lap in the bank and then obviously he’s just backing things up, up, up, he doesn’t want to give obviously our cars a clean run, it’s his right to do that, he’s got track position.

“We haven’t got a major issue, it’s all about tomorrow now.”

Queried on whether Red Bull would’ve done the same in that position, Horner said: “I think we probably would’ve focused more on the preparation of our tyre, because you can see his laptime was nowhere near his qualifying time, he was obviously more interested in what was going on behind. But that’s part of the game.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Budapest, Hungary

Hamilton was indeed slower on his final attempt, effectively backing out of the lap midway through. However, his out-lap prior had actually been a few seconds faster through the second and third sectors compared to the out-lap from earlier in Q3.

It also did not appear like he’d waited an inordinate amount of time to start his lap after Bottas up ahead had begun to push out of the final corner, and Bottas’s own acceleration timing could be explained by him waiting for Esteban Ocon’s Alpine to build enough of a gap in front.

Hamilton explained that his tyre preparation was “definitely not perfect” because of cars bunching up in the final sector.

He was then asked about Horner’s comments, as well as a tweet from ex-F1 racer Romain Grosjean that declared that “if that was made on purpose, it’s not pretty” regarding the Mercedes strategy, in the post-qualifying press conference.

“I mean it’s so silly man, everyone was going slow – did you not watch everybody else?,” Hamilton replied. “I don’t understand.

“Do you think I could have gone quicker and then closer to Valtteri, everyone was doing a slow out-lap so it was no different to any other lap.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Budapest, Hungary

“Of course each time we’re going out we’re trying to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler because they get so hot throughout the lap so I’m not playing any tactics.

“I don’t need to play no tactics, man, I know what I’m doing in the car, I’m fast enough I don’t need to add tactics.

“Those that are making the comments really don’t know anything about the job we are doing here, which is probably why they are not driving.”

Verstappen, for his part, said he didn’t know whether he was compromised by being seemingly held back by Hamilton – with his own out-lap markedly slower through the final sector than before the initial Q3 attempt.

“Of course the tyres were a bit cold but I wouldn’t have gained four tenths [to challenge Hamilton’s pole] if the tyres would have been a bit warmer,” he said.

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