NUERBURGRING, Germany (AP) — Mercedes’ hopes of winning its home race in Germany were over before the first curve. The culprit, according to Lewis Hamilton, were the tires.
Hamilton started on pole position but was sandwiched by the Red Bulls of eventual winner Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber before the first bend. The Briton finished fifth, passing Jenson Button’s McLaren in the final lap.
“That was really a tough race out there for us today. I didn’t have a great start and the Red Bulls were much quicker off the line, dropping me back to third,” Hamilton said. “We really struggled with the second set of tires which then compromised the rest of my race. We’ve clearly got a good car but for some reason, it doesn’t work in these hot conditions. We’ll keep working on it and the positive from today is that we were able to recover to fifth place with a good strategy and great pit stops, and we’re still second in the constructors’ table.
“Hopefully we’ll have a better chance at the next race but, for now, there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
The 2008 Formula One champion is still without a win after leaving McLaren for Mercedes this season. He is 58 points behind leader Vettel.
Mercedes has won six of the past seven poles but usually has been unable to repeat its speed in races.
Nico Rosberg, who won two of the past three races, was the victim of a bad miscalculation by the team in Saturday’s qualifying. Thinking Rosberg’s lap was good enough to qualify for the final and third session, the team kept him in the pit lane — only for him miss the final 10 by one place.
Rosberg was not a factor in Sunday’s race and finished ninth.
“The car didn’t feel so nice to drive today. We struggled a lot with the rear tires, and that’s why we weren’t able to match the pace of the guys in the front,” Rosberg said. “We need to understand the new tires a bit more because it seems that the new construction has shuffled things around, especially in these hot conditions. We have to do a lot of work in the next weeks to make sure we arrive in Hungary in good shape.”
The next race in Hungary is in three weeks.
Hamilton said it “doesn’t help” that Mercedes will miss the upcoming young drivers’ test at Silverstone after being banned for using its current car to conduct tire testing for Pirelli after the Spanish GP in May.
Pirelli supplied tires with Kevlar rather than steel belts for Sunday’s race after a series of blowouts at the British Grand Prix. A new compound will be used in Hungary and for the rest of the season.
Team principal Ross Brawn said the car underperformed in hot conditions.
“We have not yet done enough to convert our Saturday pace into race-winning speed in all conditions,” Brawn said. “The three-week break until Hungary will give us an opportunity to think about how we can make further progress on our tire management as well as continuing to develop the core performance of the car.”