Lewis Hamilton told himself he was an “idiot” for a “split-second” misjudgement that led to him losing out to Max Verstappen on the safety car restart in the early stages of Formula 1’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas led on the opening lap ahead of Hamilton with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen running in third.
The safety car was required on the second lap of the race when Kimi Raikkonen broke his front wing on the back of his Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi and went into the gravel on the exit of Turn 1.
When the safety car returned to the pits, Bottas waited until the start/finish straight to get back to full speed and this caught out Hamilton, who was overtaken by Verstappen into Turn 1.
“It was interesting because I was focusing actually on Valtteri,” Hamilton said after the race.
“Literally just for a split-second I looked in my mirror just to see where Max was.
“And in that – literally, in that split-second – that’s when Valtteri went and so I lost out to Valtteri.
“So that wasn’t great and then I was in Valtteri tow, and you’re [Verstappen] about to pull out and I pulled out and gave you [Verstappen] Valtteri’s tow, and I was like ‘you idiot’ to myself.”
Hamilton was able to remain close behind Verstappen and he capitalised on a small mistake from Verstappen, who lost out to Hamilton into Turn 1 on lap 11.
“Max was super fast, right out on that restart,” Hamilton added. “I fell back maybe a second or something like that and I needed to get closer.
“But it looked for a moment that there was far too big a gap – I wasn’t in the DRS range.
“I just had to gather my thoughts and make a couple of tweaks in terms of how I was driving and then start on the attack again.
“Once I did, obviously, I got closer and Max had a small mistake which then put me in a nice position out of Turn 5 and then I just needed to keep that gap through the rest of the lap.
“That was where I was able to get past him.”
Hamilton would pass Bottas at the same corner nine laps later and go on to claim his second victory in three races to extend his championship leader over Verstappen to eight points.
“There was a good fight in Turn 1 with Lewis,” Verstappen said of the safety car restart. “I managed to keep it on the kerb as well so I didn’t have to give the position back like in Bahrain.
“From there it was just super close between the three of us, and I tried to attack Valtteri but all the time I could not get close enough in those last two corners and the run onto the straight.
“And by pushing I had a little wobble, but I didn’t really lose out a lot from that. And then Lewis was already super close behind and he got me into Turn 1.
“It felt a bit more like, not flat-out racing but at least a bit more than just tyre saving so it was nice.”