Lewis Hamilton delivered a supreme recovery drive from last to fifth in Saturday’s sprint race at the Brazilian Grand Prix – and declared his fading bid to win a record eighth championship is “not over yet”.
Hamilton’s title tilt was dealt a major setback after he was excluded from Friday’s qualifying and thrown from first to the back of the grid following a rear-wing infringement on his Mercedes.
But despite admitting he was “devastated” by the stewards’ verdict, Hamilton, who so often revels in adversity, turned in his finest drive of the season to pass 15 drivers in just 24 laps and take the chequered flag only two seconds off the podium, and one second behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who started third.
Valtteri Bottas will line up on pole position for the main event after beating Hamilton’s rival Max Verstappen.
However, the Dutchman extended his lead from 19 to 21 points with just 78 points available following the conclusion of Sunday’s race.
Hamilton will start 10th after he serves a five-place grid drop for an engine penalty.
Hamilton replied: “Copy. It’s not over yet.”
Later, the 36-year-old added: “I had no idea what was possible. I didn’t set a limit or a maximum.
“When I was at the back of the grid I could see 10th, and I was like that is my goal and to try and get up as far up as possible.
“I kept chipping away. You just cannot give up, you just have to keep pushing.”
Asked about his disqualification – announced two hours and 26 minutes before the lights went out – Hamilton said: “It was definitely tough and whilst the team were working away with the stewards I was focusing on my work with the engineers and keeping the morale of my mechanics high and focusing on the job at hand and not thinking about it.
“I heard the stewards’ result and it was devastating, but you have to keep your head down. I reset and got my mind focused on doing what I could do and giving it my everything.”
Mercedes did not appeal against Hamilton’s disqualification, tweeting: “We want to win these world championships on the race track”.
Wolff added: “Sometimes after these greatest frustrations with Formula One you see this awesome race with Valtteri winning and in control.
“As for Lewis, 15 overtakes to finish fifth, it is great to forget the politics for the moment and enjoy great racing.
“The mindset we have is that when we suffer hardship you need to build up resilience and that is what I meant when I said f*** them all.
“Yesterday the car was tested and today two hours before the race we got the information that we were disqualified and that is how can I say it? Sad.
“There are procedures in Formula One and protocols you have to follow and we had a car that failed successive tests by the tiniest of margins and in the past that would have meant fix it. The wing was simply damaged in qualifying.
“But we failed the test and their argument has to be respected and this is why we also decided not to appeal the decision. If the stewards decide you have to take it on the chin and it goes both ways.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s 71-lap race, Wolff concluded: “Lewis is starting from 10th, not 20th, and Valtteri is up there on pole so it is more encouraging than it appeared 90 minutes ago.”