Lewis Hamilton admitted that he endured “a hell of a fight” to finish fifth at 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton had started the race in seventh but lost a position following contact with Sergio Perez, which saw Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso leapfrog the pair into sixth from tenth on the grid.
The seven-time champion however recovered to finish fifth which saw Mercedes stay second in the constructors’ championship – won by Red Bull, albeit with a 20-point lead over third-placed Ferrari after a race which left him feeling “exhausted” due to the hot temperatures.
Hamilton also sandwiched Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at the checkered flag after a late battle with the latter driver, which he enjoyed as he explained: “It was a hell of a fight. I was really trying to hold on.
“We did manage to get ahead of Sainz which was great teamwork and good work from the guys in the pit stop and the strategy group.”
Reflecting upon his fifth-placed finish, Hamilton felt that the result “was the maximum” that he could manage, hence the “critical” need to minimise their points loss to Ferrari with six race weekends left in the season – of which three rounds will have a Sprint Race.
Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin added that the decision to put Hamilton on a two-stop tyre strategy was “minismising” their points loss to Ferrari, with Hamilton’s fifth-placed finish considered as “useful damage limitation,” after starting behind both Scuderia drivers.
Hamilton however was briefly held up by his one-stopping teammate, George Russell who conceded fifth on Lap 49 before he lost sixth to Sainz a lap later, with Shovlin explaining the instructed position swap was to “protect” Hamilton from Sainz.