BUDAPEST, Hungary — Lewis Hamilton said his desire to retire from the closing stages of the German Grand Prix came from a conservative mindset over the longevity of his Mercedes engines.
Having led the opening stages, Hamilton plummeted down the order midway through the chaotic race last Sunday after two spins, a 50-second pit-stop and a penalty he had to serve. He eventually finished 11th on the road, but post-race penalties for both Alfa Romeo drivers promoted him to ninth position and two points — that result is provisional pending an appeal.
A radio message which emerged after the race revealed Hamilton had told Mercedes « retire the car » car ahead of what turned out to be his final pit-stop, while he was running 12th. The British driver had just spun out and damaged his tyres after narrowly missing the wall at Turn 1 — his teammate Valtteri Bottas was not so lucky, as he retired after hitting the same wall a few laps later.
Hamilton’s focus on those last laps was avoiding a further setback for his No. 44 car.
« For one I was not feeling great, but mostly I was thinking I’m running dead last and I had calculated the chances of us scoring points, » Hamilton said ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. « Then I was thinking how many races have I got to do on this engine? Could I save 15 laps of mileage on this engine? Could I save the gearbox? All those kind of things.
« But that is the way I am always thinking. Even in practice, if they say you can do 23 laps, I will do 20. I am still cautious. »
Hamilton had been feeling unwell ahead of the weekend — Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Ocon had been prepped to step into the car ahead of qualifying as a precaution on Saturday. Hamilton posted a message to Instagram on Thursday morning saying: « I’m in much better shape coming into the weekend, hoping to be 100% by the weekend… crunch time, let’s go! »
He elaborated further in the afternoon, saying: « I still feel like I need a bit more rest. I have been fighting off some bug but I feel like I am in much better fighting shape for the weekend. « I cannot tell you how good that feels. I am looking forward to getting back in the car and that is completely different to how I was feeling last weekend. »
Hamilton’s championship lead over teammate Bottas is now 41 points after 12 of the 21 races set to run.