Lewis Hamilton spent 50 seconds in the gravel, with a damaged car, at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but recovered – with the aid of a red flag – to charge from ninth to second. MotorsportWeek.com takes a look back at some of Hamilton’s other salvage jobs with Mercedes.
Hamilton was locked in a close title fight with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during the first year of the hybrid era, amid the team’s dominance, with the gap between the duo four points heading into the German round. Hamilton’s prospects suffered a sizeable setback in Q1 at Hockenheim when his W05 had a brake disc failure heading into Sachskurve, pitching Hamilton into the barriers, and leaving him at the rear of the grid. Hamilton, assisted by the pure pace of Mercedes’ package, carved his way through most of the field on race day to collect third position.
Just days later at the Hungaroring mechanical woes struck Hamilton once more in qualifying as his car alighted, leaving him without a time, consigning him to a pit start. In cool and damp conditions. A spin approaching Turn 2, straight out of the pits, threatened to derail his race after just seconds but his brush with the barriers was only light. Hamilton continued, and as the circuit dried he utilised the changing conditions and strategy to rise up the order. Hamilton suffered a fuel pressure problem during the race but stayed out and collected third place, ahead of Rosberg.
Hamilton claimed pole position on home soil but after a slow getaway was punted into a spin by Kimi Raikkonen at Village, sending him to the rear of the field. In an incident-filled race at Silverstone Hamilton worked his way through the order and emerged as an outside contender for the win, with the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers running up front. Sebastian Vettel used fresher tyres to pass Valtteri Bottas while Hamilton subsequently overhauled his team-mate a few laps later to salvage second, limiting the damage in the title battle to Vettel.
Vettel’s Silverstone win gave him an eight-point advantage heading to Hockenheim and he claimed pole position, while Hamilton was left out in Q2 after a hydraulics problem halted his W09. Hamilton ran a lengthy first stint in the race to leap to fourth after his stop prior – and then rain fell. Vettel famously went off into the gravel, Bottas and Raikkonen both pitted, while Hamilton aborted a late call to pit – running across the pit entry grass – to take the lead. After a brief battle between the Mercedes drivers orders were instructed to hold position, with Hamilton taking the win from 14th on the grid.
Not exactly the most iconic of recoveries but Hamilton still left Hockenheim with points despite a crash, a penalty, and a high-speed spin. Hamilton, who had been struggling with illness to the extent that Esteban Ocon was on standby, led but went off at the penultimate corner and sustained front wing damage. Crossing the pit entry bollard meant he sustained a penalty, which was followed by Mercedes’ clumsily lengthy stop, and once the order shook out he was down in 12th. Another error, this time a dramatic 360 at Turn 1 – in which he narrowly missed the wall – hurt his race further but despite his protestations to the contrary he was kept in the race by Mercedes. Hamilton classified 11th, but inherited two points for ninth when Alfa Romeo’s drivers were given a post-race time drop.
Perhaps less of a recovery and more an extraordinary defence of his race-winning position. The high loads placed upon the tyres had led to a string of failures late in the race, and Hamilton was instructed to back off after Valtteri Bottas was among the victims. But halfway around the last lap Hamilton’s front-left tyre let go and he had to complete the remaining two miles with only three fully operational tyres. Hamilton controlled the situation and, courtesy of his sizeable advantage, had a buffer of five seconds over Max Verstappen when the wounded W11 reached the line.
Emilia Romagna 2021
Hamilton’s latest recovery from near-disaster came after nearly a minute spent in the gravel at Tosa, having slid off while running on a damp patch to lap Russell. The red flag nullified Hamilton’s time loss and from ninth at the restart he worked his way back to second – where he was at the moment of the off.
“Definitely in that moment for me, you know I don’t make too many mistakes, and it was gutting to be in that position but I honestly feel like these things happen for a reason,” he said. “The others did a fantastic job but I remember just sitting there looking at the barrier and I refused to think the race was over. I was refused to believe that the race was done. I could have obviously just turned the car off and got out but I’m grateful that I did the reverse. After that, getting out of the car and just trying to switch the anger and turn it into positive energy so I can get back in and turn it forwards, that’s an amazing lesson to be sent and to experience.”