Lewis Hamilton says he disagrees with fans at the British Grand Prix booing his rival Max Verstappen, saying: “We’re better than that.”
The Dutchman received jeers from a section of the crowd while he did his interview after qualifying second to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at Silverstone.
Hamilton, who was booed by Verstappen fans during their title fight last year, said: “I would say we don’t need to do that.
“No booing. We’ve got such great fans. Our sporting fans feel emotions up and down, but I definitely don’t agree with booing.”
However, Hamilton said he understood the emotions that may have led to the booing following the controversial conclusion to last year’s championship, when Hamilton lost an eighth world title after the race director failed to apply the rules correctly in the final race of the season.
“It doesn’t make any difference when you boo someone,” he said. “They’ve already made the mistake or whatever it is, but I really do appreciate the support I have here. Maybe some of them are feeling the pain here from last year.”
Verstappen said the behaviour of the fans “was a bit disappointing” because he could not hear the questions he was being asked by interviewer Billy Monger.
“It was a bit of a problem,” he said. “But the rest… if they want to boo, they can do that. For me it’s not going to change anything. I’m always happy to be here. It’s a great track, it’s a great atmosphere in general. Maybe some of them, they don’t like me, but that’s fine. They all have their own opinions, you know? I don’t care.”
And Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff said: “We shouldn’t be seeing booing in any sports. That is unsportsmanlike.
“We love the support the drivers have here but if you are not into the other guys, remain silent, that would be a good way. No drivers deserve it, whatever happened last year, whatever the competition is.
“Being booed is abusive and that’s why the emotional sport that is controversial because you’re a fan and not a fan of one or the other driver, that’s good – but there is a certain limit we shouldn’t overstep.”
On-track frustration for Hamilton
For much of a gripping qualifying session run in difficult wet conditions, Hamilton was in contention for fastest lap.
But he slipped down to fifth on the grid at the end as a result of a strategic error by the Mercedes team.
He was on a quicker lap in the dying moments of qualifying, but was told to abort it so he could charge his hybrid system’s battery for a final lap in a higher power mode.
But the rain came down more heavily in the meantime, and Hamilton could not improve.
Hamilton said: “In the rain, we were fighting for the front row, and it was all the way up to the second-to-last lap. We were up there, and I was asked to back off and go for the last lap, but then it rained. Just a bit unfortunate.
“I was so hopeful because we’ve got this incredible crowd and all of sudden I was in the fight, feeling great.
“I was second by 0.02s and I was like: ‘I can definitely go quicker than that.’ And I think I was 0.2secs up and then they said: ‘Back off and go again.’ And the next lap was not as good.”
Hopes of a fightback
The conclusion of qualifying was a frustrating moment in what has been a promising weekend for Mercedes, after an aerodynamic upgrade seemed to improve the car’s performance.
Hamilton said he would “try to pull something special out” for the race.
But he cautioned against expecting him to fight for the win, against the two Ferraris and Red Bulls – Verstappen’s title rival Charles Leclerc is third for Ferrari, with the second Red Bull Sergio Perez in fourth.
“We’ve got a good race car, I think,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know if we can challenge for a win. The Red Bulls are so quick in the dry. They’re pulling away on the straights at the moment.
“Through the high-speed, they don’t have any bouncing where we have bouncing, particularly in the corners. That’s where they’re pulling away from me at the moment.
“Race pace was a bit better [in Friday practice]. I think they’re still a bit ahead but we’ll see. I’m hoping that we’ll be closer on race pace compared to last race, and if we can just hold on to them, maybe we can somehow progress. I’ll be aggressive, don’t worry.”
Have Mercedes made progress?
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell have been close to the pace all weekend following the introduction of the Mercedes’ new parts.
But Hamilton said he was not confident the team had actually closed the gap to the teams at the front, who also introduced developments at Silverstone.
Hamilton said: “We have made a step but we are in a track where it is medium and high-speed corners. We’re not great in low-speed corners and there are a lot less of those here.
“Our car is quite good in high speed. When we were in Barcelona [for the Spanish Grand Prix], we were quick through [Turns] Three and Nine [the fastest on the track].
“There’s loads of high speed here, so naturally we’re a bit closer. But I don’t know if we have closed the gap [to Red Bull and Ferrari]. The upgrade we’ve brought, they’ve brought the same, so I don’t think we’ve closed the gap, personally.”
Ferrari hopeful of beating Verstappen
Leclerc entered the weekend expressing his hope that Ferrari could have four strong races leading up to the summer break after a brutal run of events in which a series of problems have seen what had been his 46-point championship lead over Verstappen turn into a 49-point deficit.
Leclerc was also gunning for pole until a spin on his final lap left him third, but his team-mate Sainz nipped ahead of Verstappen. The Ferrari drivers said they would try to use team work to beat the Red Bulls.
Leclerc said: “Of course I would be very happy if Carlos wins the race but I am not going to hide that I want to win, too.
“What is most important is that we finish one-two, whatever way around it is, and if we can play strategic moves within the cars I am sure we will. I felt confident with the car so let’s wait and see.”
Sainz added: “We will work as a team like we’ve done all season and I’m pretty sure between Charles and me we can put a good battle with Max, and not forgetting Checo [Perez]. If we keep working like we worked all year, we can achieve a one-two.”
Verstappen’s own chance of pole was lost as a result of Leclerc’s late error, which brought out yellow caution flags and forced the world champion to back off on his final lap.
He said: “It is so tight all the time, every single qualifying or in the race like last time [in Canada]. I hope we can all have a fun race.”
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