Lewis Hamilton says he disagrees with fans at the British Grand Prix booing rival Max Verstappen and saying: “We’re better than that.”
The Dutchman received boos from a section of the crowd while doing his interview after qualifying second behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at Silverstone.
Hamilton, who was booed by Verstappen’s fans during their title fight last year, said: “I would say we don’t need to do that.”
“No booing. We have great fans. Our sports fans feel emotions from top to bottom, 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 of last year’s championship, when Hamilton lost his eighth world title after the race director misapplied the rules correctly in the final race of the season.
“It doesn’t make any difference when you boo somebody,” he said. “They already made the mistake or whatever, but I really appreciate the support I have here. Maybe some of them are feeling the pain from last year.”
Verstappen said the fans’ behavior “was a bit disappointing” because he couldn’t hear the questions being asked by interviewer Billy Monger.
“It was a little problem,” he said. “But the rest… if they want to boo, they can. It’s not going to change anything for me. 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 it’s okay. Everyone has their own opinions, you know? I don’t care.”
And Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff said: “We shouldn’t see booing in any sport. That’s unsportsmanlike.”
“We love the support the drivers have here, but if you don’t like the others, stay quiet, that would be a good way. No driver deserves it, no matter what happened last year, whatever the competition.”
“Being booed is abusive and that’s why emotional sport that’s controversial because you’re a fan and not a fan of one driver or another, that’s good, but there’s a certain line we shouldn’t cross.”
Frustration on the track for Hamilton
For much of a thrilling qualifying session in tricky wet conditions, Hamilton was in contention for fastest lap.
But in the end he fell to fifth place on the grid as a result of a strategic error by the Mercedes team.
He was on a fastest lap in the closing 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 in the meantime, the rain was coming down harder and Hamilton couldn’t get any better.
Hamilton said: “In the rain, we were fighting for the front row, and it went all the way to the penultimate lap. We were there, and they asked me to go back and go to the last lap, but then it rained, just a bit unlucky.
“I had high hopes because we have this amazing crowd and all of a sudden I was in the fight, feeling great.
“I was second by 0.02s and I said, ‘I can definitely go faster than that.’ And I think I was 0.2s up and then they said, ‘Back off and come back.’ And the next lap wasn’t as good.”
hopes of a fight
The conclusion of qualifying was a frustrating moment in what has been a promising weekend for Mercedes, after an aerodynamic update appeared to improve the car’s performance.
Hamilton said he would “try to come up with something special” for the race.
But he cautioned against expecting him to fight for victory, against both Ferraris and the Red Bulls: Verstappen’s title rival Charles Leclerc is third for Ferrari, with second Red Bull Sergio Perez in fourth.
“I think we have a good race car,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know if we can contend for a win. The Red Bulls are so quick in the dry. They’re pulling away on the straights right now.”
“Through high speed, they don’t have rebounds where we have rebounds, particularly in the corners. That’s where they’re getting away from me right now.”
“Race pace was a little better [in Friday practice]. I think they are still a bit ahead, but we’ll see. Hopefully we are closer to race pace compared to the last race, and if we can hang on to them, maybe we can make some progress. I’ll be aggressive, don’t worry.”
Has Mercedes progressed?
Hamilton and teammate George Russell have been close to the pace all weekend following the introduction of the new Mercedes parts.
But Hamilton said he was not sure the team had really closed the gap with the teams at the front, who also introduced developments at Silverstone.
Said Hamilton: “We’ve made a step but we’re on a track where there are medium and high speed corners. We’re not good at low speed corners and there’s a lot less here.
“Our car is quite good at high speed. When we were in Barcelona [for the Spanish Grand Prix]we were fast [Turns] three and nine [the fastest on the track].
“There’s a lot of high speed here, so naturally we’re a little bit closer. But I don’t know if we’ve closed the gap. [to Red Bull and Ferrari]. The update that we brought, they brought the same thing, so I don’t think we’ve closed the gap, personally.”
Ferrari hoping to beat Verstappen
Leclerc began the weekend expressing his hope that Ferrari could have four solid races before the summer break after a series of brutal events in which a series of problems have made what had been their 46-point lead in the championship over Verstappen becomes 49. points deficit.
Leclerc was also bidding for pole until a spin on his final lap dropped him to third, but his teammate Sainz overtook Verstappen. The Ferrari drivers said they would try to use teamwork to beat the Red Bulls.
Leclerc said: “Of course I would be very happy if Carlos wins the race, but I won’t hide that I want to win too.”
“The most important thing is that we finish one-two, whatever it is, and if we can play strategic moves within the cars, I’m sure we will. I felt confident with the car, so let’s wait and see.”
Sainz added: “We will work as a team as we have throughout the season and I am quite sure that between Charles and myself we can put up a good fight with Max, and not forgetting Checo.” [Perez]. If we keep working like we did all year, we can get a one-two.”
Verstappen’s own chance for pole was lost as a result of Leclerc’s late mistake, which prompted yellow caution flags and forced the world champion to drop back on his final lap.
He said: “It’s just as tight every time, every qualifying or in the race as it was last time. [in Canada]. I hope we can all have a fun race.”