Lewis Hamilton lost the Austrian Grand Prix with crucial errors in qualifying and Formula 1 title rival Nico Rosberg deserved to beat him, according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
Hamilton made mistakes on both of his flying laps in the final segment of Red Bull Ring qualifying, running wide at Turn 8 on the first run and having his time disallowed, before spinning under braking for Turn 2 on his final flyer.
The 2008 F1 world champion recovered to second in Sunday’s race, behind Mercedes teammate Rosberg, and team boss Wolff said that was the best Hamilton could have hoped for, despite finishing just under two seconds behind Rosberg.
“He lost the race in qualifying,” said Wolff. “He recovered tremendously with a great start (pictured, ABOVE) and a great first lap, [but] in all our calculations the best possible result was second, and he achieved that. It has no relation to a cautious approach from the pit wall, because both of them were running with an equal car.
“Clearly, Nico that afternoon was the faster guy. Why was he the faster guy? Because he was starting in P3 and not in P9, so Lewis’s result was compromised by Saturday.
“He was chasing him [Rosberg], but if you push your brakes and your tires harder they suffer more than the guy in the lead.”
SLOW STOPS NOT TO BLAME
Wolff denied that Hamilton’s superb opening lap, in which he rose from ninth on the grid to fourth, meant slower pit stops than Rosberg’s were actually to blame for his being beaten by the championship leader.
“No, I think when you recover from ninth, chasing down your teammate is where you probably have been more aggressive on your tires, more aggressive on brakes – it’s how you manage the race, and both of them are having a constant re-assessment of how much to push the car at a particular stage in order to have the tires and brakes when they need them to attack or defend,” Wolff said when asked whether slow stops played a significant role inr Hamilton’s defeat.
“Our pit stops were generally not on the level we want them to be, also because we were conservative and didn’t want to ruin it with an unsafe release. Maybe that’s a thing we need to look at, and get more aggressive again if the gaps to the other teams narrows down.
“But, in Lewis’s favor, we pitted him early and before Nico, which is against what we normally do, in order to jump Valtteri [Bottas], so he had the benefit of the strategy although running second on the track.”