Lewis Hamilton says he would have avoided pitting under the late Virtual Safety Car in George Russell’s position during the Singapore Grand Prix.
Russell and Hamilton were running second and fourth respectively when a VSC period intervened to remove the stricken Alpine of Esteban Ocon at the pit exit on Lap 44 of 62.
Mercedes took the opportunity to pit its two drivers for a new set of the Medium compound, with the pair utilising the fresh rubber to haul in both Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris on ageing Hard tyres.
Their victory chase eventually proved forlorn, however, with Russell proceeding to crash out at Turn 10 on the final lap to hand the final place on the podium to Hamilton.
Although Hamilton insists pitting for a second time was the correct thing to do for him, the Briton asserts he would have retained position in his team-mate’s shoes.
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied when asked about stopping under the VSC in hindsight.
“I mean, we needed to take the risk, have a shot at trying to get past some of these guys and going for the win. I think we had really good pace. So I think the team did a great job.
“I don’t know, I think George was in second at the time, and maybe if I was in his position, I probably would have stayed out and at least kept the McLaren behind. “But we gave it a shot. And it was really fun to be hunting these guys down. But as Lando said it was just too difficult to pass in the end.”
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14; George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 and Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL60 battle for position. 17.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Race Day.
Hamilton was able to close a 2s deficit after his second pit stop to accompany his team-mate in a tense four-way fight for the lead in the closing stages of Sunday’s race.
The seven-time champion believes that he was quicker than Russell, but the delta needed to overtake at the Marina Bay Circuit meant he was unable to fathom a way past to have an earlier shot at the top two.
“I mean, based on our times, I think I was about a half-a-second a lap up,” he disclosed. “But I think it was just… It’s so difficult to overtake here, you need like, a second-and-a-half deficit to the car ahead.
“And what was really surprising is that the Hard hadn’t dropped off as much as we would have thought but also our tyres dropped off a lot in trying to catch up the huge gap that were behind.”
After missing out on securing the first non-Red Bull win of the year, Hamilton was made to lament a scrappy qualifying that left him with too much ground to make up.
Hamilton struggled for one-lap speed throughout the weekend, ending up 0.4s behind Russell, who managed to split the Ferraris to gain a front-row starting berth.
“I think Carlos today had really good pace,” he acknowledged. “So I think I can’t say that it would have been easy to have won today.
“But I think I think our car was very strong. I think if I had qualified better yesterday, perhaps third, or even on the front row with these guys, perhaps we would have been of course in a better place. And I think, as a team, we would have been able to work better together.
“But when you separate the cars a little bit more, it makes it really hard to work against two other drivers from another team. So, I’ve got to do a better job there.
“But I’m really grateful for the hard work that everyone continues to do. Great pit stops from the lads in the garage, and faultless in their performance through the weekend. And also, with strategy and everything. So, I think we are progressing. We’ve just got to keep working away.”
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