After another difficult weekend that saw Lewis Hamilton throw away points with a late blunder, Mika Hakkinen believes the reigning champion is pushing hard to make up for the shortcomings of his Mercedes.
The reigning World Champion looked set to retake the championship lead given rival Max Verstappen retired from the lead with just a handful of laps remaining due to a tyre failure, however that's not how things played out. Hamilton locked his tyres heading into Turn 1 once the race resumed following a red flag, and Hakkinen thinks the lack of performance from Mercedes played a part in the error.
"This was the second really difficult Grand Prix for Mercedes," Hakkinen wrote in his column for Unibet. "After a bad weekend in Monaco we expected them to recover in Baku, but it never happened. Although Lewis Hamilton was able to qualify well, you could see in the race that he did not have the performance in his car to pull away from the Red Bulls, and when his pit stop lasted 4.5s against Max’s 1.9s the race lead disappeared.
"Lewis’s mistake after the race restart was not typical of him, but it shows how hard he was pushing to try and make up for his car’s performance issues. After Max’s unfortunate accident, Lewis’s problem provided some balance to the result, but Mercedes will be now looking for answers to their technical problems. Valtteri Bottas reported very poor grip all weekend, and could not get the tyres up to temperature quickly enough, a problem which team boss Toto Wolff admits they need to fix.
One positive for Mercedes is that following back-to-back races at temporary street circuits, F1 will now be returning to a more traditional circuit in France in two weeks time at Paul Ricard.
"After defending well against Red Bull in the first four races of the season, Mercedes have really struggled at the temporary street circuits in Monaco and Baku, where grip levels are low," Hakkinen added.T"hey will be hoping for a very different outcome in France in two weeks time because, based on what we have seen, Max, Sergio and Red Bull are in an extremely strong position.