A pensive Lewis Hamilton said he was proud of his performance at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix despite slipping from pole position to a fourth-place finish, and admitted he hasn’t been at his best for more than a year.
Hamilton‘s stunning pole lap, by just 0.003s from Max Verstappen, raised hopes that he might be able take a record-breaking ninth win at the Hungaroring and break Red Bull‘s monopoly on race wins in 2023.
However, that evaporated at lights out as Hamilton was taken by Verstappen and also lost out to both McLarens at turn one, eventually finishing off the podium behind Lando Norris and Sergio Perez.
“Well, I haven’t been at my best for over a year,” Hamilton said. “I think yesterday felt like that was me being nearly back to the best. It’s the car and me.”
Mercedes not fast enough
Hamilton‘s stunning pole lap, after Verstappen had failed to improve on his final flying lap, seemed to announce Mercedes‘ return to the front of the grid.
It was also the first time fans have seen Hamilton leading a formation lap in nearly 600 says – a sight that was the norm in Formula 1 while the Brit was in his pom.
However, Red Bull admitted they’d set the car up to perform better on race day and Verstappen won by 33 seconds from Norris, and finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
“It’s obvious that we’re not the quickest, we don’t have the quickest car and I’m really proud of myself and the job that we did yesterday to get pole position,” Hamilton said.
“To outperform the world champion and the other two cars that were quicker than us.
“And today it’s reality, the reality is we’re not fast enough, they already told me in strategy this morning I would be at least five-tenths slower than the Red Bulls so the fight’s not with Max but hoping we can fight the McLarens.
“But the McLaren was too quick for us also.”