Lewis Hamilton says his slump from pole position to finish fourth in Formula 1’s Hungarian Grand Prix is just the “reality” of where his Mercedes team is at right now.

The seven-time world champion had pulled off a shock pole at the Hungaroring on Saturday, as he edged out Max Verstappen by 0.003 seconds. It was his first pole position since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

But despite the clear pace of the Mercedes W14 over a single lap, Hamilton was unable to do anything to stop falling away over the course of the Hungarian race. 

He lost out to Verstappen on the run down to the first corner and, after being forced wide around the opening turn, found himself also getting overtaken by McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris. 

From then on, Hamilton did not appear to have the pace to fight a recovery – as he got overhauled by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez but did at least manage to find a way past Piastri late on for fourth. 

While the result was much less than many of his fans would have liked, Hamilton said he was far from despondent, as he had been told on race morning that his car would not be able to take the fight to Verstappen. 

“I think it's obvious that we're not the quickest,,” he said. “We don't have the quickest car but I'm really proud of myself and the job that we did to get pole position and outperform the world champion and the other two cars that were quicker than us.  

“Today [in the race] it's just reality. The reality is we're not fast enough. They already told me at a strategy [meeting] this morning, I would be at least five tenths slower than the Red Bull. So the fight was not with Max, but I was hoping that we could fight the McLarens. But then McLaren was too quick for us also.” 

Lewis Hamilton at Hungarian GP 2023

But although Hamilton came home fourth, his team boss Toto Wolff reckoned that Mercedes had potential to do better – but it made a mistake in being too cautious in looking after tyres early on. 

Wolff said: “We had the second-quickest car today, but the result doesn't show it and that's overall disappointing.  

“We have got to find out how we could have done that better. You can see that George [Russell] came back from a long way down, beating the Aston Martins, and beating the Ferraris. So we just need to analyse that.” 

Asked why Mercedes did not deliver, Wolff said: “I think we were too careful in bringing the laps in. I think after the stops, we lost a lot of time, and it paid off towards the end of the stint because we were miles quicker than everybody else. But it's always a balance and I believe the balance was a little bit too much in terms of bringing them in.” 

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