Mercedes have clarified why Lewis Hamilton apologised to his team moments after completing an impressive drive at the Italian Grand Prix.

Things were always going to be difficult for the Brit at Monza. He was given a back-of-the-grid penalty for having a swathe of new engine parts fitted to his car, and started the race in 19th places as a result – a long way from the points positions.

But he overcame some early struggles to finish in fifth place behind the safety car, just two places behind team-mate George Russell. After the race, he took to his radio to praise the the team for doing a “mega job”, before adding: “Sorry for the damage.”

Lewis Hamilton

Fans were confused upon hearing that – Hamilton had not been involved in any crashes during the race, and did not appear to have anything visibly wrong with his W13. But, as Mercedes later clarified, he was referring to the power unit damaged in a collision with Fernando Alonso in Belgium a few weeks earlier, which necessitated the grid drop in the first place.

“Lewis was referring back to what had happened in Spa where he tangled with Alonso at the beginning of the race, taking himself out of the race but also in the process damaging his power unit,” explained the team’s technical director Mike Elliott.

“Some damage that we are still trying to fix which will allow us to bring it back later in the season. But the time it takes to fix that meant we had to run an older PU at the last race in Zandvoort and at this race we had to bring a new PU into the pool.

“That new PU meant we had to take a penalty and Lewis started from the back of the grid.” Praising the seven-time world champion for still scoring a decent amount of points, he added: “He had a fantastic drive to come from the back of the field all the way up to fifth with the car we’ve got. It was a fantastic effort from Lewis.

“I think what Lewis was really apologising for was the fact he knew that if he had started where he qualified, he could have had an even better race. It was just simply that.”

Hamilton is yet to win a race this season amid Mercedes’ car struggles, and he knows that is unlikely to change even with their recent improvements. “We have to be realistic. That Red Bull is almost unbeatable,” he said as he noted how Max Verstappen is running away with the drivers’ title.

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