Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has spoken of feeling “so so grateful for the incredible support” that he received across a dramatic 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend.
Hamilton dominated FP1 and Qualifying on Friday but was disqualified after his rear wing failed a test of maximum 85mm measurement of ‘uppermost rear wing’, which consequently meant a breach of Article 3.6.3 and he was disqualified from Qualifying.
The Brit though was able to carve his way through the field in Sprint Qualifying to fifth before a five-place grid penalty demoted him to tenth, having changed his Internal Combustion Engine before FP1 but he recovered to take victory following a dramatic clash with title rival – Max Verstappen.
Reflecting on the electric atmosphere throughout the weekend, Hamilton said: “I am so, so grateful for the incredible support I’ve had this weekend from the people of Brazil – I’ve not had this kind of support since Silverstone!”
Describing how he approached both Sprint Qualifying and the race, Hamilton revealed that he “as pushing as hard as I could from last on grid yesterday, and then with another 5-place penalty”, as he felt that this was the “hardest weekend” of his F1 career.
Hamilton also admitted that he was surprised to cut his title deficit to Verstappen down to 14 points as he explained: “Coming into this weekend I never, ever thought we’d be able to close the gap like we have today. And then things just kept going against us, but I think it really shows, just never give up.”
The Brit though iterated the important message behind his approach to his comeback drives in Interlagos, as he added: “Whatever you’re facing, you’ve just got to keep pushing, keep tumbling away, keep fighting. Never, ever stop fighting.”
Acknowledging the hard work of Valtteri Bottas to deny Verstappen three points in the Sprint before letting him past into third on Lap Five of the main race, Hamilton said: “The Team here and at the factory did an amazing job, and Valtteri did a great job today to get as many points as possible.”
Bottas though described his start as “tricky” and “disappointing” after losing positions to both Red Bull drivers as Verstappen got the better launch at the start, before he ran wide at Turn Four to let Sergio Perez through.
The Finnish driver went on to reveal that he had aimed to try and perform a one-stop strategy before settling on a two-stopper to finish third, although he was “glad” that Mercedes outscored Red Bull in “a positive result” which left Mercedes 11 points clear at top of Constructors’ standings.
“What a weekend from this team.”
Team Principal, Toto Wolff praised his Mercedes team for their response this weekend after starting on the backfoot with a “self-inflicted engine penalty,” for Hamilton which got worse with a “harsh” disqualification from Qualifying after a lengthy investigation.
Wolff though has vowed that the stewards’ prolonged investigation has helped the team bond more and “brought us so close” as he felt that “everything was against us” throughout the weekend.
Reflecting on Hamilton’s stunning Sprint Qualifying performance he drove from 20th to fifth, Wolff hailed it as “one of the best drives we have ever seen.”
Hamilton then went on to deliver what Wolff described as an “immaculate” victory despite getting shoved off the track at Turn Four in a deliberate move by Verstappen on Lap 48 before making a race-winning move 11 laps later.
Wolff though criticised stewards for inept stewarding for not giving a five second time penalty to Verstappen, following his intentional shove which forced Hamilton to run wider to avoid contact.
Bottas meanwhile received high praise for “top-class” driving throughout the weekend to claim a “very strong” third-placed podium finish, off the back of winning Sprint Qualifying.