‘It was 100% my fault’ – Hamilton shoulders blame for pit lane crash that cost him shot at Sochi pole
A crash into the wall at the pit entry of the Sochi Autodrom ultimately contributed to Lewis Hamilton failing to be in the fight for pole position for the Russian Grand Prix, leaving him P4 on the grid as McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed a shock P1.
Hamilton had set the pace in both Q1 and Q2, as qualifying got under way following the cancellation of Free Practice 3 due to heavy rain.
But as the track started to dry in Q3, it all began to unravel for Hamilton. Having posted the provisional pole time on intermediate tyres, the seven-time champion crashed into the pit wall as he came in to change to slicks – forcing Mercedes to change his front wing.
Hamilton then spun on his one and only final flying lap – with most other drivers able to run two consecutive laps on the softs – and thus failed to improve his intermediate-shod time, ending up P4, and behind the shock top three of Norris, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ George Russell.
“It was 100% my fault, so I’m really sorry to the team,” said Hamilton of his pit lane crash. “It was right on the cusp of timing to come in [for slicks], so I was really trying to rush to come in and out as quick as possible.
“Ultimately, I’m really disappointed in myself, because up until then, I was clean, every lap, boom boom, no problem,” added Hamilton. “A silly one, but you live and you learn. There’s nothing I can do about the past now, I’ll just hope the car can be fixed for tomorrow and I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”
Asked if the crash had ultimately cost him a shot for pole on the soft tyres, meanwhile, Hamilton replied: “It’s difficult to say. One lap was not enough, you needed to be able to do more.”
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas then compounded Mercedes’ misery, winding up P7 after also failing to improve on dry tyres, in what was his first ever failure to qualify in the top four at Sochi – and with Bottas having led both practice sessions on Friday.
“Definitely,” replied Bottas, when asked if the result was unexpected. “It was going quite well. Q1, Q2 we seemed to be strong in the inter conditions. But in the end, when it started to dry, we came in. Obviously we were hopeful to get two laps but we only got one. I couldn’t get the tyres to work in one lap and I think all the cars ahead of us, they got two laps and that was the issue.”
With Hamilton P4 and Bottas P7 on the grid, the one saving grace for Mercedes was that Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen will start the Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after a power unit change – with Sergio Perez only taking P9 in the second Red Bull.
And Hamilton vowed to fight for the win on Sunday, saying: “Getting through tonight and getting the car in one piece is the first step, and then starting and fighting to try and go forward tomorrow will be the next.”
Bottas, meanwhile, had also been hopeful of fighting for the victory at a Sochi track where he took his maiden win in 2017, with the Finn remaining optimistic as he told the media: “It’s not great, but it’s also not over yet. We’ve got a good car and I’ve had strong pace all weekend, so at least now I’m not starting… from the back like we were in Monza. So hopefully it will be better.”