Lewis Hamilton expressed some ambivalence after winning his 89th race at the Belgian Grand Prix, admitting that Mercedes’ dominance might not prove particularly entertaining for fans.
Mercedes has won all but one of the seven races so far this season, losing out to Max Verstappen when softer tire compounds were used for the second race at Silverstone. However, Hamilton has won five of the last six races and now holds a 47-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Verstappen, and admitted he doesn’t get overly excited by races where he isn’t closely challenged after leading from the front at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I can’t speak for the fans but having been a fan, growing up, having lived in different eras watching the (Michael) Schumacher era, of course, I know what it’s like,” Hamilton said. “As soon as the start was done and the restart, you generally know that I don’t make too many mistakes… and the same with these drivers, you know, they’re very, very consistent.
“It’s very difficult to overtake on this circuit so I can imagine, it’s definitely not the most exciting. I feel exactly the same as Max; it wasn’t the most exciting (race). I mean, I generally really enjoy myself in the car because if you don’t enjoy the moment, what’s the point in doing in it?
“I still enjoy the battle. Every time I come through Turn 15, I look in my mirror, I see where Valtteri (Bottas) is, whether he’s closer or further behind, taking in the knowledge of what times he’s doing, the gaps between him and Max and really trying to get the perfect balance each and every single lap. That’s still a massive challenge for me. It’s perhaps not as fun for people to watch but when you’re in it; it’s a little bit different.
“But of course, I would love to have a real race. I’ve definitely had races in the past here which are a little bit closer, trying to follow the Ferrari and stay on top of them but they could overtake because they had all that extra power. I think the Red Bulls have improved. I really hope that we have more of a race because I think everyone wants to see us all battling together.”
Although understanding about how fans might react, Hamilton says drivers shouldn’t be blamed for the way they perform if given a dominant car, even if he admits he often tuned out of races when Schumacher was winning five straight drivers’ titles.
“I was a teenage kid, I would have woken up, had my bacon sarnie (sandwich) and probably watched the start and gone to sleep and then woke up to watch the end. If I was watching today I would do the same, most likely and watch the highlights because it’s much shorter, unless a friend told me there was a super exciting race on TV so that you watch the whole thing.
“Ultimately, this is not what fans (want)… and I hope that people need to hopefully understand that this isn’t our fault. At the end of the day we’re drivers, we’ve come through all the ranks, we’ve earned the positions that we have and we come in weekend in, weekend out, devoted and give absolutely everything to go out there and perform at our best.
“Ultimately the decision makers who design the cars, who set rules and those kind of things, are the ones that you could apply pressure to to ultimately do a better job moving forwards, if that’s possible. I’m hopeful that’s what they’re going to do in 2022 and with that new-type car, maybe we’ll see a different form of racing where you can follow. Wouldn’t that be something if we can follow closer and have more close races?”