Russian GP: Lewis Hamilton says mistakes 'not what you expect from a champion' after dropping to fourth in qualifying
Lewis Hamilton crashed twice at the end of qualifying, hitting the wall in the pits when fitting soft tyres before then spinning and nudging the barriers on his last lap; Hamilton, who trails Max Verstappen by five points in championship, says he feels "terrible"
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 26/09/21 6:31pm
Lewis Hamilton said he was "incredibly disappointed" with himself and apologised to his Mercedes team after his two late crashes in Russian GP qualifying, which he said were "not what you expect from a champion".
Hamilton, the favourite for pole who had dominated the wet shootout, only finished fourth on Saturday following a chaotic conclusion that included two uncharacteristic errors - hitting the wall on the way to the pits before, minutes later, he spun and nudged the barriers on his pivotal last lap.
The drama allowed Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and George Russell to overhaul Hamilton as they made the most of their soft-tyre advantage in drying conditions, sealing one of the season's most surprising results.
Hamilton, first addressing his pit-lane shunt, said: "It was just a mistake. I'm incredibly disappointed in myself.
"Up until then I was in the groove, I was really in the zone."
Hamilton eventually finished two seconds off the pace, with his quickest lap on intermediate tyres. He only had one lap on the softs, crucially fewer than his rivals, as Mercedes were late into the pits in the first place.
Mercedes refused to blame Hamilton and said both crashes wouldn't have made a difference to the end result - Hamilton may not have managed more than one lap at the end even with a clean pit-stop, while he wasn't improving on his last lap before his spin in the final sector - but the sport's seven-time champion was still hugely frustrated.
"I'm really sorry to all the team because that's not what you expect from a champion," he added.
"Twice in the wall... that's very rare for me."
Hamilton is still set to start Sunday's race sixteen places ahead of Max Verstappen, but failed to capitalise on his title rival's engine penalty in qualifying.
"These things are sent to try us," said Hamilton. "I feel terrible right now but I'll turn it into a positive."
Speaking about Mercedes' qualifying set-back, having looked odds-on for a one-two but finishing with Hamilton fourth and Valtteri Bottas seventh, team boss Toto Wolff insisted it was just "really unfortunate".
"You can't point to a mistake today," said Wolff, before explaining: "We were the first cars out [in Q3] and found ourselves in a sequence where either we would have aborted our last two runs on the intermediate tyre to get two soft runs in, or play it safe by finishing the lap, which is what we did.
"If you could turn back time, you'd maybe not go out first and wait a minute later but then you're into crystal ball reading.
"Even without Lewis' kiss on the wall we wouldn't have been able to do two laps on the soft and it was definitely a lap two tyre today. With the second lap, I'm sure we would have been fast enough for the front row but with one lap, you have no chance of heating the tyre enough.
"Now we need to turn it around tomorrow, these things sometimes go against you but the important thing is how you react. Lewis is still in the hunt for the win."