Hamilton hails ‘huge step’, but couldn’t fight Verstappen in sprint


Lewis Hamilton believes his runner-up spot in Saturday’s Sprint event in Shanghai reflected a ‘huge step” forward for Mercedes despite the Briton being unable to fight Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the race win.

Hamilton enjoyed a strong launch off the front row of the grid for the 19-lap mad dash, outrunning poleman Lando Norris to the first corner and seizing the lead as the McLaren driver fell further back as he ran wide at Turn 1.

But after settling in during the race’s opening laps, Verstappen made progress, overhauling the Aston martin of Fernando Alonso and then chasing down the leading Mercedes.

A lock-up by Hamilton at the hairpin brought Verstappen within DRS range which was edge the Dutchman needed to fly by his rival and take charge of proceedings, the Red Bull driver crossing the checkered flag with a comfortable 13-second cushion.

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Hamilton was able to protect his runner-up from Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez by 2.5 seconds, and the seven-time world champion was clearly delighted with the result.

“I’m super, super happy and grateful,” he said. “Of course we couldn’t fight the Red Bulls today. But this is a huge step, a huge improvement.”


Hamilton credited the rain in yesterday’s Spring qualifying for setting up his productive performance.

“With the rain I think that really helped naturally,” he added.

“The race was tough and obviously if I was further back I would have struggled, perhaps, to progress. But I found out a lot about the car through this short stint of the race so I’m excited for tomorrow.”

Addressing his Turn 1 battle with Norris at the start, Hamilton said: “I obviously got a great start and had the inside line.

“He tried to hold the outside line and was just pushing to the maximum. I used everything to try to hold onto the position, and eventually, he got on the dirt on the outside.

"There is a point where, if you go a little bit too far, there is no grip out there.

“In that scenario, he should have just conceded and just parked up behind me. Probably would have had the pace to overtake me [later].”

Hamilton was hopeful of improving his W15 silver arrow ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying, although he acknowledged Mercedes lingering deficit to its direct rivals.

“We’re still not as quick, I think, on a single lap, as obviously the Ferraris, the Red Bulls and I think the McLarens are ahead of us for sure,” said Hamilton. “And possibly the Astons.

We’re probably very close, maybe, to the Astons but we’ll see today.

“I don’t anticipate we’ll be fighting for the front row. But the fortunate thing is we can make some adjustments so hopefully I can improve the car in the next three hours and hopefully have a better qualifying session than we have had in the past.”

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