Hamilton dismisses Horner’s ‘gamesmanship’ claims
By Mat Coch
Sunday 1st August, 2021 - 1:21am
Lewis Hamilton has dismissed claims he was playing games with Max Verstappen in the closing moments of qualifying for the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Englishman will line up on pole for Sunday’s race, while Verstappen will start from third, neither driver able to improve on their initial efforts in Qualifying 3 with their final laps.
However, it was their final out lap which caught the attention, with the Red Bull driver trailing the seven-time champion down the pit lane and onto the Hungaroring.
As they did so, Hamilton appeared to slow dramatically, delaying his rival which in turn cost Sergio Perez the opportunity to start his final hot lap.
Quizzed on the approach, the 36-year-old rejected suggestions his pedestrian pace was an intentional ploy against Verstappen.
“Everyone was doing a slow out lap,” he observed.
“It was no different really to any other lap.
“Of course, each time we’re going out we’re trying to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler because they get so hot throughout the lap.
“I don’t need to play no tactics; I know what I’m doing in the car, and fast enough [that] I don’t need to add tactics.
“Those who are making the comments really don’t clearly know anything about the job that we’re doing here, which is probably why they’re not driving.”
Hamilton had been asked about the lap following comments made by Christian Horner on Sky Sports, and a tweet from Romain Grosjean.
The Frenchman took to social media to proclaim, “if that was made on purpose, it’s not pretty…”
“It’s a bit of gamesmanship,” claimed Horner.
“Lewis had got a hell of a lap in the bank, and then obviously he’s just backing things up.
“He doesn’t want to give obviously our cars a clean run, but it’s his right to do that. He’d got the track position.
“We haven’t got a major issue, it’s all about tomorrow.”
Verstappen also downplayed the impact of the slow out lap, the Dutchman’s best more than four tenths adrift of Hamilton’s pole time.
“Of course the ties are a bit cold but I wouldn’t have gained four tenths if the tyres would have been a bit warmer.”
Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by eight points in the drivers’ championship, has won the Hungarian Grand Prix on eight previously occasions.
Victory on Sunday would make him the first driver to win the same event nine times, and mark his 100 world championship race victory.
The Mercedes driver, like his team-mate alongside him on the front row, will start the race from pole on medium compound tyres.
Meanwhile Verstappen will start on a set of softs after a tight Qualifying 2 forced him into the faster but less resilient rubber.
The Hungarian Grand Prix gets underway at 23:00 AEST tonight.