It was a disappointing qualifying session for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team as the W13 struggled for pace in Belgium.
Lewis Hamilton will start the Belgian Grand Prix in P4 and George P5, despite qualifying in P7 and P8 respectively, after penalties are applied to the drivers around them.
The W13 has so far not been able to produce the pace shown in Hungary with both drivers struggling with aero balance and getting the tyres in a good working window in the cooler temperatures of Belgium.
With a number of teams opting to take PU penalties in Spa, a mixed-up grid will start tomorrow’s race, creating points opportunities which the team will be working hard to maximise.
‘Everyone’s working hard for improvements and we came here very optimistic that we’re going to close the gap, so to be 1.8 seconds behind is a real kick in the teeth but it is what it is. This is a car that we continue to struggle with, and I definitely won’t miss it at the end of the year. The other two teams ahead of us are in another league and we can’t keep relying on them to fall off. We have to regroup and make sure next year’s car is where we need it to be, and we’ll do the best we can with what we have for the rest of the season. We were a little too draggy and the aero balance through the corners wasn’t stable so it’s very hard to work around that but we’ll try our best for tomorrow. Knowing how hard everyone is working, I’m gutted for the team because we’re giving it our all but it’s the fundamentals of this car – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s really bad.’
‘It’s difficult to comprehend how we were on pole in the last race but 1.8 seconds off today, and we aren’t just losing time to Max, we were six tenths behind the Alpines. When the temperatures are cold, we struggle and as we also saw in Imola this year, we find it difficult to get the tyres working. I’m confident we’ll have a lot more pace tomorrow compared to the Alpines, McLarens and the Williams too, but we will still be 0.5s/1.0s behind Red Bull and Ferrari. We need to look overnight to try and understand our pace but it’s good to get qualifying out of the way, it has been a weak point for us, and I’m sure we’ll be faster tomorrow. Mercedes qualifying P7 and P8 is not where we want to be, and we know that’s not where the car is, so we’ve got work to do tomorrow to get a good result.’
‘That was a very disappointing qualifying result, no matter that penalties for other cars tomorrow will push us up the grid. Four weeks ago in Hungary, we were on pole, albeit with some slightly unusual circumstances that played in our favour; today, we were 1.8 seconds off pole position. Nobody in the team thinks that kind of deficit is acceptable, and even now after 14 races, we don’t understand how to consistently get performance out of this car. We seem to have high drag on the straights and haven’t given either driver a balance this weekend to give them confidence. Hopefully tomorrow we will have better race pace than we showed today, but we know that no matter our finishing positions, we have a lot of work ahead of us.’
‘We were hoping to close the gap to the front here which is clearly not what we have achieved but this year has thrown plenty of setbacks at us, we just need to learn what we can from it and try to move forward. The car has been really difficult to get into a good working window here; we’re having to make a lot of compromises in how we’re running it in terms of balance and stiffness. That’s part of the problem but we’ve also failed to do a decent lap on new tyres all weekend which is probably a separate issue that we need to investigate and understand. We will move up the grid a little for tomorrow as three of the cars ahead have penalties, but it will be all about race pace – if we don’t have that, then we’re in for a tough race. As always, we’ll be fighting hard to get every point that we can and maximise every opportunity in the race tomorrow.’