Lewis Hamilton lamented his retirement in Austria as the “worst race he can remember for a long time” following a Mercedes blunder that cost him victory and the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton will head into his home race at Silverstone in just six days one point behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel after the Briton failed to finish following a mechanical failure.
The defending champion had already accused Mercedes of costing him a straightforward win after, and not for the first time this season, they failed to react to a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period, caused
by Valtteri Bottas’ retirement in the sister car, and stop him for new tyres.
Hamilton dropped from first to fourth, and following a series of furious exchanges with the Mercedes pit wall, he then ran out of power with only seven laps remaining.
“This is definitely the worst weekend I can remember us having for a long time,” Hamilton said.
“I am not going to lie, we’re going to have to work on all areas. We can’t afford to throw away points. We need to find a bulletproof method to move forward.
“We have lost a lot of points this year through bad calls and reliability. Everyone is going to be feeling the pain.
“We have had such great reliability for so many years and as painful as it is, we have to take the rough with the smooth. But I have every confidence in my team that we will be able to bounce back.”
Hamilton’s retirement, his first in 33 races, ensured a 15-point championship swing in Vettel’s favour.
Mercedes have dominated the sport since 2014, but mistakes are creeping in under the fiercer competition provided by both Ferrari and Red Bull this year.
In Austria, apparently distracted by Bottas stopping on track following a lack of hydraulic pressure, they took their eye off the ball, and when the VSC was deployed to slow down the pack, Hamilton, unlike all of his rivals, did not stop for fresh rubber.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes chief, dismissed the need for a knee-jerk reaction, even though he admitted it had been his most painful day in his years with the team.
“We don’t need to make changes,” he said. “The situation is very complex this year. We are fighting six cars.
“We made a mistake. We were controlling the race, running one and two, and suddenly Valtteri stopped. The VSC came out, we had half-a-lap to react and we didn’t. Fact. This is where we lost the race.”