Lewis Hamilton told Mercedes on Sunday they need to give him a better car or else wreck his chances of winning an eighth world title.
That was the Briton’s cry after losing the Styrian Grand Prix to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who so dominated at the foot of the Alps, amid the region’s sylvan hills, that the ‘action’ sent the local cows to sleep but acted as a jolting alarm call to Hamilton and Mercedes.
The only snag — and it’s a big one — is that Hamilton’s boss, Toto Wolff, insists there will be no upgrades to the car.
With effect, he is telling his star driver he has to take on his Dutch challenger with the inferior equipment in which he trailed home in a lonely second place. With eight rounds of 23 down, Hamilton trails Verstappen by 18 points.
‘We still have many races ahead of us and have to keep pushing,’ said the defending champion. ‘We are the world champions and we can improve if we put our minds to it.
‘But if we are not going to develop and improve our car, this is the kind of result you are going to see.’
To which Wolff said: ‘We have no upgrades coming this year. When we look back in five or 10 years, time will tell whether it was the right or wrong decision.’ So the two men are in dispute.
Wolff, of course, is conflicted because next year brings a massive rejig of the regulations. New cars, new engines. So the preparation requires research and development.
Hamilton understands that. To a point. But after Verstappen galloped away here, lapping all but the top four, Wolff’s compromise seems a bitter reality to accept.
Yes, Hamilton finished 35 seconds behind the Red Bull, albeit a margin exaggerated by his taking a second stop to be reshod on fresh tyres to claim the point for setting the fastest lap.
Hamilton, who started second, said: ‘They were way too fast for us. I knew we were going to be behind on single-lap pace. I gave it everything I could, but they have obviously made some very good steps over these past few races.
‘We will work as hard as we can to see if we can squeeze any more juice out of this car.
‘I am pushing everyone as hard as possible to get us performance. I am proud of the work we were able to do this week but we were just not quick enough.
We would love an upgrade but it is not in the pipeline at the moment.’
In fairness, Wolff is not conceding defeat. He said his team had other weapons in their armoury, whatever that means.
And perhaps he is playing games by overstating their technological stagnation to lull Red Bull into a similar frame of mind. There will also, as Wolff again pointed out, be tracks that suit Mercedes and they should hardly be written off.
As for the race here on Sunday, what a bore!