Lewis Hamilton has conceded that in the wake of his retirement and Red Bull Racing's dominant form to seize the advantage in both world championship tables in Budapest last weekend, he and McLaren-Mercedes are now 'hanging on for dear life' – but the British star is adamant that having 'dug deep before', his team can do so again.
Having sat atop the title chase ever since triumphing in Canada in early June, Hamilton lost that lead to Hungarian Grand Prix-winner Webber three days ago, following his Red Bull rival's brilliant strategic victory at the Hungaroring and his own failure to finish – only his second of the campaign – after dropping out of fifth place early on with gearbox woes.
The chief cause for concern, however, is not the four points by which the 2008 F1 World Champion now trails Webber in the drivers' standings, but rather the gaping 1.7-second deficit that separated McLaren from RBR in qualifying in Hungary.
“If I was to sit here and say I am confident I will win the world championship, that would not be right,” Hamilton told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph
, “but I have to remain optimistic. I have enough in me to win the championship, but whether we will have the package to deliver, I can't answer. We just have to keep working. We are hanging on for dear life.”
“[Budapest] was a disappointment, yes, but you have to put it behind you,” the 25-year-old added in an interview on his personal website. “You should never think too hard about the 'what ifs' or the missed opportunities. It happened, and we move on – it's that simple. Despite it being a difficult race, I can take some positives away from the Hungary weekend – I was able to pass a car on-track, and the guys once again pulled off a perfect pit-stop to put me ahead of Felipe [Massa].
“We're extremely fortunate to have built a car that's not only enabled Jenson [Button – team-mate] and myself to win races, but that's also been competitive at pretty much every grand prix we've been to. We haven't been up there in every race, and we had some fairly difficult weekends at places like Monaco and the Hungaroring, but on the whole we've been consistently fast, made very few mistakes and have usually scored the points we've deserved on the Sunday – which hasn't been true of every team.
“The championship is so closely-balanced, but I know we can come back even stronger in the final seven races. We have some very promising developments in the pipeline, and we're making progress in lots of other areas, too. We have dug deep before, and I know absolutely that we will dig deep once more.”
Be that as it may, the two-week mid-summer factory shutdown is hardly likely to aid McLaren's cause, preserving as it does the status quo
pretty much intact until the teams are all ready to fly off again to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August. Whilst recognising that the timing is not ideal for the Woking-based outfit, Hamilton points out that everybody will benefit from a break and underlines his conviction that the multiple world champions will come out fighting again in the Ardennes in three-and-a-half weeks' time.
“If we were not going on holiday, I would love to go straight to the factory,” confessed the 13-time grand prix-winner. “I'm not an engineer, but I would drag the chief designer down to the wind tunnel, question him many times and try to understand it because that is what I do. Things I have suggested in the past have worked. I don't think I am going to come up with the idea this time, but the more you ask, the easier you get to the solution.