Motor racing-Hamilton apologises to Mercedes after qualifying crash

(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton apologised to Mercedes after the seven times Formula One world champion crashed, to cheers from some in the crowd, in qualifying for Saturday’s Austrian Grand Prix sprint.

The Briton, whose team mate George Russell also crashed in the final phase of Friday’s qualifying at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, will start 10th.

The sprint, with Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen on pole, sets the grid for Sunday’s grand prix and also awards championship points.

“It was a big hit but I am OK,” Hamilton told Formula One television.

“I am incredibly disappointed in myself, ultimately, and so sorry to the team. Everyone works so hard to put this car together and I never like to bring it back damaged.

“We were fighting for top three I think, and I don’t have an answer for it. I lost the back end in turn seven and that was that.”

Hamilton said he was encouraged otherwise by the car’s performance, and hoped he could make up some places on Saturday.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose drivers have struggled with a bouncing car for much of the first half of the season, said neither should beat themselves up.

“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 we are able to drive in front and then it can happen that you just lose the car,” he added.

“I’d rather have a fast car and then a qualifying like this than not having the pace to be in the top four.”

Addressing the crowd reaction, at a circuit owned by Red Bull and with an army of Verstappen fans, Wolff said it was wrong.

“We just need to speak more to fans that cheering when a car is in the wall, or booing a driver that gives an interview, is not what we would do with our competitors and enemies even though you can think we would have some animosity,” he said.

“Nobody should actually do it … we need collectively with F1 to educate people.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)