Hamilton: 'Such a tough race physically and mentally'

1st place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 02.05.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Portuguese Grand Prix, Portimao
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton said that today's victory in the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimão had been one of the toughest of his career.

Hamilton started from second place alongside Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas and initially succeeded in holding on to the position.

But things went very differently when it came to a subsequent safety car restart which allowed Red Bull's Max Verstappen to ambush him into turn 1.

“That was such a tough race physically and mentally,” Hamilton told the media in parc ferme immediately after the end of the race. “I didn’t get quite as good a start as Valtteri and then lost out at the restart which was not good.

“I was focusing, naturally, on Valtteri and literally just for a split-second I looked in my mirror just to see where Max was," he explained. "In literally that split second, that’s when Valtteri went, so I lost out to Valtteri.

"I was in Valtteri’s tow," he continued. "[Verstappen was] about to pull out, and I pulled out and gave him Valtteri’s tow and I was like, 'You idiot!' to myself.

"I really had to position myself as best I could after that," he said. “I just had to gather my thoughts and make a couple of tweaks in terms of how I was driving and then start on the attack again.

"Max made a mistake at some point which was perfect and I knew that was going to be the lap where I could be as close as I could in the last sector.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 celebrates with the team at the end of the race. 02.05.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Portuguese Grand Prix, Portimao

“And then with Valtteri I had to make the move early on before the tyres were destroyed. I managed to just get him at turn 1. Just right on the limit. Great race.”

Hamilton admitted that at any other circuit he might not have been able to fight back and take the lead on lap 20. "What a great track; it really enabled us to fight close in that first stint and I think that’s really what the fans what.

"That’s definitely what I want from a racing point of view, and this track is really great because you can have certain different lines at certain different corners, just like Austin, and so it was really awesome."

The final laps of the race saw Bottas, Verstappen and Sergio Perez go head-to-head for the bonus point for fastest lap, but Hamilton stayed aloof and focussed on the win.

As a result Hamilton now has an eight-point lead over Verstappen, with Mercedes 17 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors championship.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium. 02.05.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Portuguese Grand Prix, Portimao

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff confirmed that it had been a challenging afternoon for the seven-time champion.

"You could hear in his voice how much he was pushing," Wolff told Sky Sports. "it was never a situation that he could let go.

"The gap was too small and all the drivers were pushing so much you could see the movement back and forth.

"Valtteri had real pace at the start and you could see it was difficult for Lewis to overtake him, but in the end he managed to get past."

"Excellent race," Wolff summarised. "[Hamilton] seemed to have it under control the whole race."

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