Juan Pablo Montoya said he could understand why Lewis Hamilton told his Mercedes team they should "save the engine" and retire his car after being involved in a first lap clash in Spain. Hamilton was battling with Haas' Kevin Magnussen through Turn 4 when the pair made contact on the opening lap. Magnussen was sent skittering through the gravel, while Hamilton picked up a puncture and had to pit for new tyres and repairs. With no Safety Car deployed, Hamilton resumed the race almost a minute behind the pack, and made the request of his team to retire the car. He was told to persevere and, from there, produced a tremendous race to finish in fifth after rising as high as fourth in the closing stages. Montoya, speaking to Sky Sports F1 in the days following the race, said he could understand Hamilton's state of mind. "Well, think about it, you just got hit on your first lap, and you did a whole in-lap with a flat tyre," he said. "You've gotta go and do a pit stop that took a long time to change because when the tyre is flat, they cannot get the jack under the car. "You would think there is front wing damage and everything. So, at that point, you start the race and you're 60-70 seconds behind the leader. You're like 'What are we doing, what are we going to achieve?' "When you look at it from Lewis' point of view, I understand it because he's used to cars that can win races and score 25 points every weekend. But when you're scoring eighth to 10th place, it's hard. "But the team made the right call telling him to stay in it and, impressively enough, he really didn't give up. When they told him he needed to go, he got on with the job and that was good to see."
Montoya points to Mercedes' slow season start
Montoya reckoned that Mercedes' big jump in performance in Spain caught the seven-time World Champion by surprise and that, when Hamilton had made the request, he believed he was in for a long, lonely race in an uncompetitive machine. "It's kind of weird that he went on the radio and told the guy 'let's park the car', and kinda gave up," he said. "I understand why he did that, being at the back and thinking there's nothing to do and the car hasn't been competitive the last few races. "So I think it was a surprise for him how quick the car was through the race. If you look at it, I think if he didn't have the incident in the first lap, he probably would have had a chance to win the race. "The other thing that is different, I think he got excited halfway through the race when he started getting to the points and he saw his pace being really quick. "I think he got excited to run harder and harder and harder. It's fun!"
Montoya weighs in on Hamilton/Russell battle
While Hamilton put in a remarkable recovery drive, George Russell came home in third place having been a constant thorn in the side of the two Red Bull drivers. With the young British driver once again finishing ahead of Hamilton to claim his second podium finish of the season, Montoya was asked for his thoughts on how Russell is faring upon his promotion to Mercedes. "I think George, on one lap pace, is doing a much better job than Lewis - he is getting more out of the car on one lap," he said. "But you look at what Lewis did [on Sunday]. When Lewis is on his A-game, he's hard. "I think George can do a job on one lap but he's got a lot to learn from Lewis on race pace. Same as when Valtteri [Bottas] was there, the pace of Lewis in the races is incredible."