Toto Wolff has heaped praise on Lewis Hamilton’s “rock and roll” fightback from a pit lane start at the Brazilian Grand Prix to finish fourth which the Mercedes team principal admitted wasn’t a realistic target before the race.

Hamilton profited from an early safety car to close up to the pack having started from the pit lane after his qualifying crash and enforced engine change before carving through the field using a new specification Mercedes engine to demonstrate the German manufacturer’s latest step forward in development.

After reeling in Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for fourth place on the alternate tyre strategy, Hamilton looked set for the podium but over the closing laps couldn’t find a way past Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen due to their closely-matched pace.

But Wolff says fourth was never a realistic goal for Hamilton before the race began, while overestimating Red Bull’s race pace, and felt his Brazilian Grand Prix charge was a mark of the 2017 F1 world champion's talents this year.

“For me it was the best fourth place finishes I have ever seen and if you consider he started from the pit lane and ending the race 5.4 seconds behind the leader is quite an astonishing drive,” Wolff said.

“When we discussed it in the morning we didn’t see it as a realistic target without a safety car of P4. We had the safety car which helped us a little bit but the [performance] gap to the Ferraris was too close to the have really achieved much more.

“I think Lewis all year has been rock and roll and Valtteri has recovered slowly but still needs the killer instinct. But you must not underestimate that in traffic against the Ferraris it was really difficult.”


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