Lewis Hamilton ‘would love Mercedes upgrade’ in bid to combat Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton has challenged Mercedes to provide him with a quicker car – or watch Red Bull’s Max Verstappen run away with the world championship.

Verstappen dominated Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix to win for a second time in a week and extend his title advantage over Hamilton from 12 points to 18.

Hamilton last won in Spain on May 9, with Verstappen’s Red Bull team victorious at the past four rounds.

The Dutchman led all 71 laps at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring to take the chequered flag 35 seconds clear of Hamilton. Worryingly, for the Briton a second race will take place at the same venue next weekend.

AUTO Styrian
AUTO Styrian

Moments after his side’s emphatic defeat, Hamilton’s boss Toto Wolff said Mercedes will cease upgrades on this year’s machine and turn their attentions to 2022 and a major overhaul in regulations.

But Hamilton said: “If we are not going to develop and improve our car this is the result you are going to see. Naturally, I would love to have upgrades and improvements but I don’t think that is currently on the cards.

“When we do our debrief we will chat about it, but that is how it is at the moment. In terms of baseline performance this is all we have got.”

A budget cap was introduced at the start of the year. This season, teams must spend no more than 145million US dollars (£105m). This will reduce to 140m US dollars (£100m) in 2022 and 135m US dollars (£105m) the following year.

The Silver Arrows, winners of the past seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships, have ordinarily spent north of £300m each campaign.

Austria F1 GP Auto Racing
Lewis Hamilton admitted he had a ‘lonely’ race (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

Hamilton, 36, continued: “I am not going to question the team’s logic and how they go through the process. But give us an upgrade. We would love an upgrade.

“I have got an incredibly intelligent and strong and amazing group of people behind me who take these decisions and they have to try and balance the cost cap.

“In terms of the championship, I don’t accept anything. We have still got many races ahead of us and we have to keep pushing. We are the world champions and we can improve if we put our minds to it.”

In a season of thrills and spills, Sunday’s showing in the Styrian mountains was more of a bore-draw than a seven-goal ding-dong.

After pole-sitter Verstappen moved to his right to hog the inside line and prevent Hamilton from making a move at the opening corner, he drove faultlessly throughout.

The two championship protagonists changed rubber a lap apart with Verstappen emerging from the pit-lane five seconds up the road. His advantage doubled by the end of lap 58.

“What shall I do?” Hamilton asked his race engineer, Peter Bonnington. “I can’t close the gap.”

Bonnington could offer no real answer, other than calling on his driver to look after his tyres in the hope Verstappen’s would fall off the cliff.

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However, the victor lapped the entire field up to fourth in a display that will seriously call into question Mercedes’ decision to stop spending big money on this year’s machine.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “Time will tell. History will say when you look back in five or 10 years, whether it was the right or the wrong decision. But in any case, this fight is not over.”

However, there can be no denying that the momentum is firmly in Red Bull’s camp. After ruling on the streets of Monte Carlo and Baku and now in France and Austria, too – the latter two being venues Mercedes have commanded in recent years – Verstappen is proving his machine is not a one-trick pony.

A poor Red Bull pit-stop allowed Valtteri Bottas to leapfrog Sergio Perez to take the final spot on the podium but Mercedes lost further ground in the constructors’ race. The Silver Arrows now trail Red Bull by 40 points.

Elsewhere, McLaren’s Lando Norris – unable to keep the superior machines of Bottas and Perez behind – started third and finished fifth, while an engine failure cruelly denied George Russell any hope of scoring his first points for Williams.