SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton urged Mercedes to ‘bullet proof’ their procedures after a double retirement in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix dealt the reigning champions one of their most painful weekends in Formula One.
The Briton had made a quick start to seize the lead while Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, who had been on pole position, pulled over with an hydraulic leak early on.
A strategy blunder then dropped the four-times world champion from first to fourth before he eventually retired with a fuel pressure problem seven laps from the end of a calamitous afternoon.
It was the first double retirement due to mechanical problems for the ‘Silver Arrows’ since Mercedes returned to the sport as a constructor in 2010 after a 55-year absence.
Hamilton’s exit also ended a record run of 33 successive races in the points and stripped him of the overall championship lead.
“This is definitely the worst weekend that I can remember for a long time,” the team quoted the 33-year-old, who spoke only to television reporters after the race at the Red Bull Ring, as saying.
“Everyone in the team will be feeling pain today, but we’ve got to take out the positives of the weekend,” he added.
“The car has been great all weekend, we were quickest and we’ve had such great reliability for so many years.
“I have every confidence in my team that we will be able to bounce back. We can’t throw away points, so we will have to find a bullet-proof method going forward.”
The retirement meant Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished third, is now a point clear of Hamilton after nine races.
Vettel had also been ahead before last weekend’s French Grand Prix, which Hamilton won to go 14 points clear.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff considered the race a ‘major wake up call’, with Sunday ranking as his worst day at the helm.
“It was the most painful day in my years at Mercedes, worse than Barcelona,” he said referring to the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix when Hamilton and then team mate Nico Rosberg collided and retired.
Then, as now, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went on to win.
“I had plenty of people coming to see me before the race and saying ‘well, this is going to be a walk in the park, one and two, you have the quickest car’,” added Wolff, whose team had won every Austrian Grand Prix since the race returned to the calendar in 2014.
“This is exactly how motor racing can go. It can be very, very cruel, and I think we had all the cruelty go against us today. It just got us brutally.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar