Lewis Hamilton apologised to his Mercedes team after his crash in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix cost him a shot at an unlikely pole position.
Hamilton had looked competitive throughout qualifying on Friday and was in firm contention for a front-row start for Saturday’s sprint race until an uncharacteristic mistake ended his session prematurely in the Turn 7 tyre barrier.
"I'm so sorry guys. I'm so sorry to damage the car," Hamilton said on the team radio after his crash.
The setback, both a rare and costly mistake for the seven-time champion, came when Mercedes were showing clear signs of turning their season around, after Hamilton was also in contention for victory at Silverstone last weekend. But both of their drivers crashed out of qualifying in under quarter of an hour to transform their new-found promise into misery.
"I am incredibly disappointed in myself ultimately and so sorry to the team who worked so hard to put this car together and I never like to bring it back damaged,” Hamilton said.
"We were fighting for top three I think and I don't have an answer for it. I lost the back end into Turn Seven and that was that.”
Team-mate George Russell struggled to match Hamilton’s pace at the Red Bull Ring, but also expressed his frustration after going backwards into the barriers at Turn 10, an incident which brought out a second red flag in the session.
Lewis Hamilton has gone off in the middle sector! He's OUT of qualifying! 😲 pic.twitter.com/TGo6SiGzqs
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) July 8, 2022
“I could have been fourth. I was a tenth up on my lap and I went for it. I could have been on for third. We need to see how much damage is done, so sorry to the team and the garage,” Russell said.
However, both drivers were encouraged that their car was as quick as it was in qualifying trim, especially on a track that was not expected to suit them.
"That is a huge positive from the team but I am really quite far back so I don't know what is possible from there but we have a sprint race as well so hopefully I can make up for some lost [places],” Hamilton said.
Team principal Toto Wolff echoed their positive sentiments but urged the drivers not to beat themselves up over their mistakes.
"These two should never beat themselves up because of this situation - crashing out," Wolff said.
"We've given them a car that wasn't on par for 10 races in a row and now we're starting to come to terms and drive in front, it can happen that you just lose the car.
"I'd rather have a fast car and a qualifying like this than not having the pace to be in the top four.
"Spielberg was always a race where we were struggling, even in the best of our days it wasn't very good, so we were not expecting another step in performance.”