Lewis Hamilton says it was important he regained his focus after Romain Grosjean’s accident in the Bahrain Grand Prix to be able to hold off Max Verstappen when the race finally resumed.
Sunday’s grand prix was delayed by over an hour after Grosjean’s terrifying incident, which necessitated significant barrier repairs before the race could resume. Hamilton had led away on the original start with Verstappen moving into second place, but with the long interruption placing so much attention on Grosjean’s crash, Hamilton said re-focusing was crucial to his victory.
“I’m sure it’s different for each and every one of us,” Hamilton said. “You think about the fact that if everyone else is shocked, just imagine how his family is feeling. And then again, we’re putting our helmets on and we’re going back out there. Anything can happen with these cars.
“It definitely wasn’t easy to get back into the zone, into race mode, but the race goes on and that’s what we’ve got to do. Head down, otherwise this guy (Verstappen) is going to beat me, and he very nearly did.”
Hamilton said it was a physically demanding race due to the constant pressure from Verstappen, who rarely dropped more than five seconds behind the leader.
“The first start was really great and when you get a start like that you always hope that you can just keep going – but then obviously the Safety Car came out, or the red flag came out,” he said. “And then to go back into (the restart), we were behind the Safety Car and it was quite slow. The Safety Car was driving really slow – not really quite sure what happened, so our tires would have been at a lower temperature, and so it was definitely a slightly different second start – but the second start was also spot-on.
“After that it was generally trying to build a gap to Max, but he had great pace, so in the early stages it definitely wasn’t particularly easy to do that. I think because he was following me, his tires would have overheated sooner than mine, and I was able to build a little bit of a gap. Then after that he had the two hard tires and it was really quite difficult to maintain the speed that he had when I was on the medium tire, particularly in that middle stint.
“At the end, we were both on the hard but he still also had really good pace and I was just trying to manage the tires, which I struggled with, I think compared to them, and perhaps Max. A good battle, and also it was physical out there. It’s always been a physical circuit, and even though it’s cooler, you still have those G through the corners.”