Budapest: Lewis Hamilton has warned his McLaren team that their Formula One title hopes are hanging by “a thin thread” after he failed to finish Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 2008 world champion lost his overall lead in the championship to Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber while McLaren dropped to second place in the constructors’ standings with seven races remaining.
The McLaren factory has now shut down for a two week break, something all the teams have agreed to do although not all are taking the exact same weeks, but Hamilton said he would be pushing hard as soon as business resumed.
“I’m just going to be on the tail of all the team, all the engineers, making sure that they’re not missing anything,” he told Reuters.
“I feel it’s just as much my job to kick them as it is for them to kick me. But if anyone can do it, we can.
“It’s going to be very hard, these seven races. We’re holding on by a thin thread at the moment,” added the 25-year-old, winner of two races this year compared to Webber’s four.
“If they (Red Bull) continue with the pace they have, then we really don’t have a huge hope. But I do believe that we can catch them.”
Red Bull have taken 11 pole positions out of 12 this season and won half the races. Such was their advantage at the Hungaroring that Sebastian Vettel qualified more than 1.2 seconds quicker than Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in third place.
Both McLaren drivers have been saying for some time that their car is not as quick as the Red Bull and that was self-evident on Sunday even before Hamilton pulled over in his second retirement of the season.
“At this stage of the season, to be this far off, and also to have a DNF (did not finish) like we did, whilst we are still in the hunt for the championship, it’s obviously serious,” declared the Briton.
“It’s not a case to look upon lightly, not that we do...it’s a case where we have to pool every little bit that we have, in terms of resources of the team, the knowledge we all have, and to be the most united we have ever been.
“But I have complete faith in my team, and I still feel we can do that.”
Hamilton, now four points behind Webber, said it was better to take stock now and react than to have a nasty surprise later.
“It’s probably happening at the right time for us to step back, take a breather, and say ‘Okay’, to assess the situation,” he added.
“When you’re in the midst of the tension, and the stress and the pressure, there are some things you miss.”
McLaren are wrestling with a new floor and ‘blown diffuser’ system that Red Bull pioneered and Hamilton said even a small gain found in the factory before the next race in Belgium could translate into something much bigger on the track.
“I just think something is not enabling the car to work correctly, which then gives me a false sense of feeling in the car which then loses time overall,” he said.
“Rather than thinking it’s a huge thing, it might be one small thing that is only half the problem. If we think we’re 40 or 50 points down on downforce, it might be we’re actually only 20 to 25 points down.
“And when you get that it will correct other things that gives you the overall 50 points.”