ZANDVOORT, Netherlands - Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday that the "slow" nature of his Mercedes car last weekend in Belgium "hurt", as the seven-time world champion prepares for his bid to bounce back at this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix.
The Briton admitted his opening-lap crash and Mercedes' lack of overall performance had been a blow - and heaped praise on rivals Red Bull for their brilliant display at Spa-Francorchamps.
World champion and runaway series leader Max Verstappen led Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez home in a one-two that left their competitors gasping.
"I don't want to use the word disappointment because there are 2,000 people at the factory working so hard to get it right and, of course, I wish that we had got it right and had upgrades to push us forward," Hamilton, whose race ended in a collision with old rival Fernando Alonso, told reporters in Zandvoort.
"I wish we were fighting at the front, but that isn't the way it is... It hurts. Believe me, it hurts. But I have a responsibility to keep morale high. We've got to push and not be discouraged. But, yes, it sucks - and the car is slow."
On a trying day for the 37-year-old Briton, Alonso, who had called him "an idiot" when they collided last Sunday, went to visit him at the Mercedes motorhome and apologised.
Hamilton had reportedly left an autographed cap with "For Fernando" written on it at the motorhome for the Spaniard, who at 41 is the only driver in the paddock older than Hamilton.
Alonso was later seen leaving with the cap in his hand.
He said his comments about Hamilton were not true.
"It was something you say in the heat of the battle, but none of what I said is true or there are facts to prove otherwise. I have a huge amount of respect for Lewis.
"At those moments, fighting for the top three, I said partly because of the adrenaline some things I shouldn't have said. After the race I also said it was a racing incident. In the future, I will pay more attention to what I say on the radio.
"Firstly, Lewis is a champion. A legend. And if you say something, and I'm sorry to repeat it, to a British driver, the media will write about it a lot after that."
Hamilton was also put into an awkward position when comments he made 11 years ago, describing Red Bull as "just a drinks company", were recalled.
"A few years ago, I said something about them being a drinks company and it was really just highlighting that you would bet on a car manufacturer more than them, but they've proved me wrong and they've done a great job.
"(Chief technical officer) Adrian (Newey) obviously did his thesis on ground effect cars at university so it's no surprise what he's done this year. It's impressive. But I believe in the young guns in my team that we'll catch up." AFP