The seven-time world champion appeared set for a remarkable turnaround in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix having initially endured a difficult start to the weekend when main rival Max Verstappen suffered a tyre failure while leading with five laps to go.

Hamilton lined up second on the grid at the restart following a late red flag but locked up and ran down the Turn 1 escape road in his bid to snatch the lead from Sergio Perez in a two-lap sprint to the finish.

The rare error meant Hamilton dropped to 15th at the chequered flag and missed the chance to move back into a commanding lead in the world championship, with Verstappen maintaining his four-point advantage.

Red Bull held a clear performance edge over Mercedes in Monaco and Baku - two street circuits that were not expected to suit the team’s W12 challenger - but Mercedes has been tipped to bounce back when F1 returns to more traditional tracks in France and Austria.

However, Hamilton believes Red Bull currently holds a pace advantage over Mercedes after he struggled to keep up with Verstappen and Perez during the race in Baku.

“You can see that Red Bull is clearly the quickest at the moment,” Hamilton told reporters after the race in Baku. “It was very, very hard to keep up with them.

“So to be have been in the mix and in that position was really amazing. It’s quite a humbling experience actually to come away with nothing after all the hard work, but these things happen.”

Asked if he thinks Baku winner Perez could make life difficult for him in the title race, Hamilton replied: “Their car is incredibly fast, so I think undoubtedly the two of them together will make it difficult.

“That’s what we expected at the beginning of the year, and so we will just keep our heads down.”

But Hamilton believes there are still positives to take away from a difficult pair of races in Monaco and Baku.

“I think it’s been an incredibly difficult two weeks, or two races,” he explained. “And I think today it’s obviously a painful experience.

“I think [Sunday] was really a stroke of bad luck. But Max had bad luck too, and these sorts of things happen.

“But I think there’s lots of positives to take from the weekend in terms of where we recovered to get back to, so we’ll regroup and try to come back stronger.”

Hamilton stressed Verstappen’s bad luck and failure to score points did not make his own disappointment any easier to deal with.

“It’s irrelevant, it doesn’t really make any difference to be honest,” he said.

“These lessons are sent to try us, and it’s just quite difficult also because I lost a friend [Mansour Ojjeh] this morning, and so just a mixture of emotions. But we live to fight another day.”

 

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