Toto Wolff has described Lewis Hamilton’s recovery from the pit lane to fourth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix as “quite an astonishing drive”.
Hamilton crashed in Q1 and was set to start from last on the grid before Mercedes opted to replace his power unit with a fresh engine in order to be able to push throughout the final two races of the season. The four-time world champion responded with a sensational recovery that made him a threat for victory before eventually finishing fourth, and Wolff was full of praise for the Briton.
“For me it was the best fourth place I have ever seen, and if you consider he started from the pit lane, ending the race 5.4 seconds behind the leader is quite an astonishing drive,” Wolff said.
“When we discussed it in the morning we didn’t see it as a realistic target without a Safety Car. We had the Safety Car which helped us a little bit, but the [performance] gap to the Ferraris was too close to have really achieved much more.”
As the race unfolded and Hamilton made rapid progress through the field, Wolff admits he felt there was a chance of victory, but believes eventual winner Sebastian Vettel was not showing Ferrari’s full performance.
“I think a win would’ve been possible as he was the quickest guy out there, but you must also consider that Sebastian was managing the pace [throughout] every part of the race apart from the last lap, so we probably haven’t seen a real race.
“You can see at the end when Ferrari switched the engine on there is not much difference between the cars, and therefore you can’t expected easy overtakes.”
Hamilton himself admits the manner of his progress was not always thrilling, highlighting a pass on Sergio Perez around the outside of Turn 1 as the only standout move of the race.
“Honestly, they didn’t really feel like any one of them was particularly special to me,” Hamilton said. “I’m not a big fan of DRS. While I think DRS enables overtaking, it’s like a band aid for the ultimate flaw in the whole concept of a Formula 1 car: that you can’t follow.
“They were just about getting up close and using the DRS, which is not like go-karting when you have to get close and then maneuver. I guess the outside of Turn 1, I was quite happy about that, but there wasn’t any other highlighted overtaking maneuver that I wished that I could have done.”