Lewis Hamilton believes Max Verstappen would have beaten him to victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix but says mistakes decided the race.
Verstappen started from pole position and led Hamilton throughout the first stint, with Mercedes opting to pit early for hard tires and to gain track position. Hamilton was able to hold the lead after the final stops but the Red Bull Racing driver soon reeled him in, overtaking around the outside of Turn 4 but running off-track to complete the move and having to hand the position back three laps from the end as Hamilton held on for an unexpected victory.
“We came into this race knowing that we were on the back foot, knowing that it was going to be a tough start but everyone worked incredibly hard to try and at least maximize everything we had,” Hamilton said. “Everybody just kept their heads down and I’m incredibly grateful to everybody.
“In the race it was so hard to keep the mindset, be consistent, not make mistakes, and hold the ground. Ultimately if he hadn’t made the mistake he probably would have won the race. That’s what makes and loses you wins.”
With Verstappen leading and showing strong race pace on Friday, Hamilton says Mercedes were almost forced to try something different when running second in the opening part of the race.
“Definitely stopping early, we knew it was going to be difficult but we had to cover Max. They’ve had an amazing performance all weekend. So it would take something really special. We stopped for that last stint and were trying to find the right balance between not pushing too much and having tires that were alive at the end of the race It was difficult and Max was all over me right at the end, but we just about managed to hold him off.
“It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while, so I’m really grateful for it. Massively thankful to the men and women back at the factory and the guys, and here also, for continuously pushing the boundaries and never giving up even if we did feel we were behind.”
After coming under immense pressure from what appeared to be a quicker car all weekend, Hamilton is wary of the threat Red Bull and Verstappen will pose this season.
‘But he only wins in the best car.’ 😜pic.twitter.com/vLRn8gHS52
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 28, 2021
“He’s a fantastic driver, they have the quicker car, and to keep him behind on fresh tires also, that was one of the hardest that I’ve had for a while. But I’ve got a really bad memory so I’m sure there were others too!
“We’ve got such a great fight here. This is not the end for them; they’re going to come back with a vengeance in the next race so we’ve got to work hard. I hope the fans enjoyed because I enjoyed it. Onwards and upwards from here.”