Lewis Hamilton says his pit lane crash in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix was “embarrassing” but not a sign of him cracking under pressure.
The defending champion claimed earlier in the week that Max Verstappen would be struggling with the pressure of his first championship battle the longer the season goes on, something Verstappen disputed. With the championship leader starting from the back of the grid, Mercedes looked set to dominate qualifying before mixed conditions provided an added challenge and Hamilton slid into the wall entering the pits to fit slick tires late in Q3, limiting him to fourth on the grid.
It was a messy end to Q3 for @LewisHamilton
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 25, 2021
“It’s really nothing to do with pressure, honestly,” Hamilton said. “It really wasn’t a pressure scenario. It’s literally just mistakes do happen. I came into the pits, I knew that I didn’t have a huge amount of time and I was attacking.
“I was just trying to get through the pit lane as fast as possible because I knew that I would need as much time as possible. In the previous times coming in the pit lane, you could take it really quite slowly. I thought the track was drying and the grip was quite good, and came in and just took it a little bit quicker than normal and just lost the back end and slid into the wall.
“So, yes, of course, embarrassing, disappointed in myself that I’d hit it, but s••• happens. We all make mistakes, and of course it’s not what you would expect a world champion to do. But when you have the success that I have, anything but perfection feels like a long way off.
“But I’m only human. My dad called me afterwards, and we just talked about it, and you just move on. Tomorrow, I get my racing head back on and back focused, and hopefully bring you a good race.”
The mistake makes Hamilton’s task to take big points off Verstappen that bit harder, but he says just because the Red Bull driver is starting last doesn’t mean he won’t score himself.
“Well, we can talk about it and just apply pressure to ourselves… Of course if you could capitalize on any opportunity it could make a big difference, but what you’re seeing with the rule changes is that it’s been difficult for everyone with engines. This weekend it’s been interesting seeing some of the movement — who knows what’s going to be up ahead of us all.
“Right now we just have to focus on trying to maximize tomorrow as a ream. But if you look at Valtteri (Bottas), he’s come from far behind here before I believe — you saw him come from last to third in the last race, so it’s not impossible for those at the back to come and get some good points.”
Hamilton says there is also no added pressure on him based on his number of victories, as he has been on 99 wins since the British Grand Prix.
“It will come when it comes, but of course I will be giving it absolutely everything tomorrow chasing that number 100 — it’s a big number. It seems like it’s taken longer than ever before to get it but it’s a pretty cool number to wait for.”