Lewis Hamilton offers bleak excuse for lack of Verstappen defence after Rosberg criticism

The Mercedes driver missed out on the chance to end his long wait for a race win as he drew criticism from his former team-mate Nico Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton has admitted he did not try to fight Max Verstappen after the Mercedes star was denied a precious victory in the F1 Sprint Race at the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton had done superbly to beat polesitter Lando Norris off the line and snatch the lead into Turn One, and generally looked comfortable out front as the McLaren star fell down the order.

That was until Verstappen passed Fernando Alonso to take second place. From there, the Red Bull driver hunted down race leader Hamilton – and a front brake lock-up at the hairpin left him vulnerable to the straight-line speed of the RB20.

Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Mercedes / LAT Images
Lewis Hamilton during the F1 Sprint race at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Mercedes / LAT Images

On Lap 9, Verstappen homed in on Hamilton’s W15 and made light work of the overtake, with Hamilton visibly allowing the Dutchman to get the inside line and speed off into the distance, eventually stretching out a massive 13-second gap by the end of the race.

And the 39-year-old explained why he felt it wasn’t worth battling against Verstappen, even if it meant giving up the chance of ending his 50-race run without a victory in F1.

“I didn’t even put up a fight for Max because he was coming at a serious, serious pace advantage that I knew he would he would get me,” Hamilton told select members of the press in China, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“I really wanted to make sure I didn’t lose time to the cost for the behind so I could retain second.”

Rosberg in Hamilton swipe

His former team-mate Nico Rosberg, who was working with Sky Sports F1 as a co-commentator, took a swipe at Hamilton for failing to get his elbows out when defending against the Red Bull.

The retired German was treated to a much more feisty battle when going wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton when they battled for the title between 2014 and 2016, and Rosberg said he “wished Hamilton would have been a little more aggressive” against Verstappen.

“Close the door Lewis, then go aggressive, you know? Just properly close it… pity to just let him through so easily,” Rosberg said. “He could have so have done that, it would have been easy to do.”

But Hamilton suggested that Mercedes never had a chance, with their lack of pace exposed after outperforming expectations during the rain-hit sprint qualifying session on Friday.

“I think it was over 90 per cent due to the scenario [with] the rain yesterday, if I’m really honest,” Hamilton added. “We’ve not made really a step from the last race, the car is exactly the same.

“And we’re battling the same issues that we had in the last race and I think position-wise, we are probably pace wise in a similar position.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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