Spielberg (Austria), 9 July : Lewis Hamilton admits winning the Austrian GP is not on his mind after his grid penalty left him eighth on the grid for Sunday’s race.
The Mercedes driver had known since Tuesday that he would face a five-place demotion from where he qualified this weekend after the team discovered a problem with his gearbox after the dramatic Azerbaijan GP a fortnight ago.
Although he looked on course to minimise the damage with strong form in practice and then the fastest time in Q1, he slipped behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas and championship rival Sebastian Vettel in the final phase and finished third.
That now becomes eighth on the grid for Sunday’s race.
And, although the Mercedes appears the fastest car around the Red Bull Ring, Hamilton said his focus is on “damage limitation”.
Asked if he could win from eighth, he replied: “Valtteri has been quickest all weekend, so it’s not really on my mind at the moment.”
Hamilton has never won from lower than sixth in F1 and only once from outside the front two rows.
He does though have history of working his way through the field in Austria, having gone from ninth to second in 2014.
But with Mercedes no longer having the advantage over the rest of the field that they had then, the three-time world champion is expecting a tougher task this year.
“I’m pretty sure back then there was a bigger speed delta between us and other cars, so I think it’s more unlikely than it was then.
“But I’ll give it everything I can, of course, I’ll be happy if I can get up there.”
Vettel win ‘will continue lucky streak’
Hamilton trails championship leader Vettel by 14 points ahead of Sunday’s race, with the German lining up alongside Bottas on the front row.
The two rivals collided in Azerbaijan with Vettel this week avoiding further action from the FIA for driving into Hamilton’s Mercedes.
And in an apparent dig at the Ferrari driver’s let-off, Hamilton said Vettel’s luck would be continuing if he ended victorious on Sunday.
Asked by Sky Sports News HQ’s Craig Slater if he needed Bottas to hold off Vettel from a championship perspective, the Briton replied: “If Vettel wins the race, it will continue the lucky streak he is on.”
Vettel, meanwhile, said he had not been concerned by Hamilton’s grid penalty.
“You need to do your best in qualifying. It’s always better the higher up you start,” he said.
“It is irrelevant what happens to other people or yourself. It’s a shame he has the penalty, I’m sure he’s not happy about it, but you still have to do your job and try to qualify as good as possible.”