Hamilton 'would have won' British GP without Safety Car says Wolff, as he expects 'difficult' Austrian weekend
Had the Safety Car not come out on Lap 39 of the British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton would have sealed his ninth win at Silverstone on Sunday – that's the belief held by his Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff, who lamented the team’s struggles with warming up the soft tyre, which ultimately caused Hamilton to settle for third place.
After making it past Lando Norris on Lap 5, Hamilton, now in free air, was the fastest man on track as he closed in on Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at the front. And after both Ferrari drivers came into the pit lane to change their tyres, the seven-time world champion went on to lead his first laps in a race since the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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Later on, a Safety Car allowed Hamilton to switch to the soft tyre as he attempted to regain the lead, but a slow restart saw Sergio Perez overtake the Mercedes driver, while Sainz pulled away to win the race. Speaking after the race, Wolff was encouraged by his team’s ability to battle with the Ferrari drivers and Perez in the Red Bull, but rued their loss of “momentum” at the restart.
“Very pleased [with the performance], the car had some performance today and we were in there to win the race and that’s very encouraging,” said Wolff. “I think we probably lost a little bit of momentum after the restart, but we had almost no bouncing which was encouraging, and the pace was good on the hards and on the medium, just on the softs we were not able to really get the grip that we would have wished at the end.
“I think without the Safety Car he would have probably won the race. And at the end it was just Perez was there and Sainz just went. It’s okay – the most encouraging [thing], like I said before, is that we had a car that was able to race.”
Mercedes brought a raft of upgrades to Silverstone, with our data showing that they were now more of a match for the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull. So when asked what the goals for his team were for the rest of the season, Wolff replied: “I think we just want to, on our own, win races. That would be great, and be there fighting with them. That would be a target, so we have a car that we can develop for next year also.”
Mercedes now head to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix, which they have won just once in the last four years (not including the Styrian Grand Prix, also previously held at the Red Bull Ring, which Hamilton won in 2020). And Wolff was not expecting their W13 car to be as strong in Austria as it could be in France the race after.
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“I think Austria was always a little bit difficult,” said Wolff. “There are three corners that we don’t like, three and four with a warp. But high speed should be good there and Paul Ricard should be a good one, but we have to sort out the car generally.”
Mercedes head to the Austrian Grand Prix third in the constructors’ championship, 61 points behind Ferrari in second.