Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of securing a fourth-place finish in the Formula 1 sprint race in Belgium were dashed when he received a five-second penalty for a collision with Sergio Perez, pushing him back to seventh place. The penalty was a contentious decision given the challenging weather conditions during the race, leaving Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff to question its harshness.
“Tough punishment when you think about the conditions out there,” muses Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff on “Sky” and explains:
“I would say [the penalty] is definitely very harsh because Perez is coming back too. “
Wolff believes penalty too harsh for Sprint racing
“So he’s not using the whole track either,” he says of the Mexican, who retired in turn 15 shortly after Hamilton’s accident. “At some point, Lewis starts to understeer and then he slides into him,” explained Wolff about the collision.
Wolff acknowledged that both drivers were navigating treacherous conditions, and Perez was also not using the entire track. Despite understanding the race stewards’ decision, Wolff believed it was too severe, especially considering the limited points available in the sprint race.
“Well, you can understand why they gave the penalty,” admits Wolff.
Therefore the stewards believe that Hamilton was “largely” to blame for the accident, even though Perez admittedly gave him little room.
“We have to put that behind us now. The penalty has been given. We can only be angry about it and that’s what we’re going to do now,” said Wolff.
“If it had been the main race tomorrow, it would have been extremely annoying. But today, with so few points [in the sprint], it makes little difference. Still a tough decision in my opinion,” he reiterates.
Hamilton agrees with Wolff opinion
Hamilton echoed Wolff’s sentiments, considering the incident a racing accident and emphasising that the conditions were tricky for all drivers. His damaged car further complicated matters, as it affected his performance on the track.
“There’s not much to say, I think it was a racing accident…” Hamilton then insists:
“The conditions are tricky out there and we’re all doing our best,
“Of course, it wasn’t intentional. I went into a gap, he was slow in turn 14. I went inside and there was more than half a car’s width of space,” said Hamilton, who tried out an old quote from Ayrton Senna:
“If you’re not going for a gap then you’re no longer racing”
“I did that,” he shrugs and explains: “When I looked at it again, it looked like a racing accident to me,
“In the end it was unfortunate but the race stewards shouldn’t ban racing,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s car was damaged
Hamilton also reveals that his car also had damage to the floor and as a result, he has lost “a lot of downforce” in this area,
Incidentally, he almost went one position further back, because at the finish he was only 0.065 seconds ahead of George Russell.
“To be honest, in a race like today, it’s not that important to me. There aren’t many points anyway. Of course it would have been nice to finish fourth. But I’m not really interested in fourth places,
“I want to win,” concludes Hamilton.
Perez: Collision caused ‘huge damage’
Perez, who had a chance to secure points before the accident, understood Hamilton’s manoeuvre and acknowledged that everyone was pushing hard in the sprint race.
His damaged car forced him to retire, which was unfortunate, as Red Bull’s strategy had put him in a promising position early on.
“He took the whole right side of the car.” explains Perez,
“He damaged the floor and the sidepod and that was it. We lost too much grip that way,” he shrugs. Shortly thereafter he parked his Red Bull in the pits.
“I think he just ran out of grip and couldn’t stop his car,” he explains, even showing understanding for Hamilton’s manoeuvre: “I think he was in a bit of a hurry. Everyone was in a hurry to get up today,” said Perez.
Because Hamilton had only started the sprint from P7, he himself only from eighth place on the grid.
“It’s a very short race, so you have to take such risks,” says Perez. “But it’s not nice that he ruined my race,” he clarifies.
Lost podium finish for Perez?
Sergio Perez pondered what could have been as he believed he had a shot at finishing in the top 3. The Red Bull driver was optimistic about his chances, commending the team’s “great strategy” that helped him gain positions early on.
Unlike his teammate, Perez made a crucial pit stop immediately after the race started, switching to intermediate tyres. This tactical move propelled him to fourth place, right behind Pierre Gasly.
Perez shared his disappointment as he believed he had a strong chance of overtaking Gasly before the safety car intervened.
“Before the safety car came, we almost got Gasly,”
“So it looked really good… Tomorrow we’ll find out where we really stand with the car. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully we can get the points that we got today have lost.”