Lewis Hamilton came close to winning his first race of the 2022 season at Zandvoort after a late safety car denied him any chances of a victory.
Mercedes went for a one-stop strategy at the Dutch Grand Prix. However, a late safety car triggered by Bottas’ retirement changed things.
At the restart, Hamilton found Max Verstappen on his rear with a fresh set of soft tyres. With just 12 laps to go Hamilton had to defend from Verstappen to take his first victory of the season.
However, Verstappen managed to overtake Hamilton at turn 1 only after the restart.
Red Bull had a straight-line advantage but Hamilton has confessed to a mistake he made that played in favor of his old rival.
“I was late to get to the race mode but I was in race mode on the straight, but they were just fast on the straights.”
Hamilton was late on switching to the correct race mode. This helped Verstappen to get the perfect tow at the last corner. So, by the time the duo reached the main straight Verstappen was already close enough to get out of Lewis’ slipstream and attempt an overtake down the Tarzan corner.
Hamilton doubtful of the late-race strategy call
Hamilton’s problems didn’t end with Verstappen overtaking him. The 7-time world champion was eventually overtaken by his teammate and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc coming home in P4.
Mercedes had called both the drivers to stay out to keep track of the position. However, Russell demanded a fresh set of soft tyres as he knew keeping Verstappen at bay would almost be impossible.
This left Hamilton an open prey to the attacking Verstappen.
Moreover, Hamilton’s old mediums didn’t help him much against Russell or Leclerc either. The Briton was clearly struggling with the tyres.
Hamilton was found seething on the radio as he saw things unfold in front of his eyes. The Briton had realized how much worse the situation was for him.
When asked why wasn’t he switched to soft tyres, Hamilton responded:
“That I don’t know.
“At the beginning of the day, we talked about taking the risk of going onto a one-stop.
“There was no discussion of if 20 laps to the end there was a safety car, that wasn’t a part of the discussion.
“Honestly, when that came up, I just followed the direction… I didn’t think anyone was going to stop.
“I drove past my pit box and saw the tyres were out and saw what was happening to George, in that moment I was like ‘wait a second’.
“So it was kind of then my heart started to fade a bit.”
Surely, if it wasn’t for the Virtual safety car and the ultimate safety car, Mercedes and Hamilton might have actually pulled off a stunning victory thanks to their remarkable strategy decisions.
However, in the end, Mercedes’s strategy was left in shambles.
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