Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver says car inconsistency ‘mind-boggling’ after early exit from Australian GP |  F1 news

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver says car inconsistency ‘mind-boggling’ after early exit from Australian GP | F1 news

Lewis Hamilton qualified 11th for the Australian Grand Prix after making a surprise Q2 exit; the seven-time world champion has been edged out by Mercedes team-mate George Russell at all three races in 2024; watch the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am on Sunday morning

8:05 UK Saturday 23 March 2024

Lewis Hamilton said his car’s mismatch with Mercedes “truly boggles the mind” after making a surprise early exit from qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion’s poor start to his final season with Mercedes before his move to Ferrari continued in Melbourne on Saturday when he qualified 11th for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton had described Friday’s second practice session as “one of the worst sessions for a long time”, but Mercedes appeared to make significant progress overnight as Hamilton finished a tenth off leader Charles Leclerc in the final practice session on Saturday morning.

However, in the windier afternoon conditions at Albert Park, Mercedes lost performance and a dirty lap at the end of Q2 saw Hamilton overtaken by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, before Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole.

“I felt great in P3,” said Hamilton Sky Sports F1. “It was weird because we were right there with these guys and we really didn’t understand why.

Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Highlights from Albert Park

“But then you go into qualifying, it’s just another inconsistency in the car, it really boggles the mind.”

Hamilton explained that he had a “long list” of issues that contributed to his early season struggles.

“I think our car is on a knife’s edge,” Hamilton said.

Huge shock as Lewis Hamilton is knocked out in Q2 by Lance Stroll who improves his time to drop the Mercedes driver to P11

“Wind picks up here in the afternoon, same as P2. P1 was a bit better and then when the wind picked up the car became much more unstable. And then this morning it was nice with a calmer wind and then right when the wind picked up it got a little less steady.

“But the other teams picked up the pace in qualifying. Not sure why, but the starting grid didn’t feel the same in qualifying. Even though we had lighter fuel, we felt better in P3. So it’s not a great feeling, for everybody in the team, but we’re just going to keep chipping away.”

Russell: I feel more confident and consistent than Hamilton

George Russell claimed seventh on the grid to establish a 3-0 qualifying record against Hamilton for the season, with the former well placed to set the same mark for Sunday’s race results.

“George did a good job today,” added Hamilton. “It is what it is. I just have to try to do a better job tomorrow.”

George Russell believes the Melbourne circuit does not play to Mercedes’ strengths but hopes they will be in a better position for tomorrow’s race

The two have been very close since Russell joined the team in 2022, but the 26-year-old has not been able to overtake Hamilton quite comfortably so far this year.

“For me, I feel a little more confidence and consistency with the car,” Russell said Sky Sports F1. “We know we have to improve on the high-speed corners and there are quite a few of those on this track.”

“I think we will be in a much better place tomorrow when we have more fuel in the car and the pace is a bit slower than everyone else. But this track doesn’t play to our strengths.”

Asked to explain why he seems to have a different experience to Hamilton in W15, Russell added: “I’m just focused on myself and my team and trying to maximize it.

George Russell outraged by Lewis Hamilton’s track positioning during Australian Grand Prix final practice

“I can’t comment on Lewis’ feelings. After all, we are not exactly where we want to be.

“We had a strong qualifying in Bahrain with P3. Had it not been for the race issues we would have been fighting for the podium and were P5 in Jeddah.

“The P7 isn’t perfect, but there’s definitely something to play for tomorrow.”

Wolff: Catching Red Bull in the short term is an illusion

After two disappointing seasons since new design rules were introduced to Formula 1 in 2022, Mercedes were hoping that major off-season changes to their design philosophy would help them close the gap with Red Bull.

That optimism remained after a relatively impressive performance in pre-season testing, but Ferrari emerged as clear second-best, with Mercedes dropping McLaren and Aston Martin behind them.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Mercedes’ lack of performance is not for lack of trying, but not good enough after qualifying P7 and P11

“It’s particularly frustrating because we were a tenth down in FP3,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff Sky Sports F1.

“The conditions were a little different, but there’s no excuse. We have a car that is difficult and you can be a hair’s breadth from the window.

“As much as I hate myself for saying this for a long time, we just have to keep working at it and try to get better. It’s not for lack of trying that we’re where we are, but it’s not good enough.”

Karun Chandhok looks at Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying lap after his shock Q2 crash in Melbourne

Asked if he accepted that the W15 would not allow Mercedes to put pressure on Red Bull this season, Wolff replied: “I think it’s an illusion to get close to Red Bull in the short term.

“But I still have to believe there’s more to this car and to see these performances like this morning, it’s not a bad car that can achieve that.

“It’s so hard, like I said, to be out of the performance window and we’ve just got to keep working on it.”

Sky Sports F1 live Australian GP schedule

The third round of the 2024 F1 season takes place on Sunday with lights out at 4am on Sky Sports F1

Sunday March 24

  • 12.30am: F2 Feature Race
  • 3am: Australian Grand Prix build-up: Sunday’s Grand Prix
  • 6am: Australian GP reaction: checkered flag
  • 7am: Ted’s notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian Grand Prix highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP build-up: repeat of Sunday’s Grand Prix
  • 9.30am: Australian GP replay
  • 10am: Australian GP Highlights (Sky Showcase)
  • 11.30am: Australian GP reaction: checkered flag replay

Formula 1’s biggest season continues with the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am on Sunday, live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with Sports Month membership NOW – No contract, cancel anytime

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