Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from the third row of the grid after a stop-start qualifying session with a number of incidents.
Both drivers completed a number of prep laps to put temperature in the Soft tyres and the overnight work saw them take a positive step forward from yesterday’s running.
The Mercedes team benefited from issues for Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, and will look to keep both cars behind tomorrow.
‘Compared to yesterday and to the last race, today was a good day for me. I’m really grateful for the work at the factory in turning the car around from yesterday and I almost got P4 which would have been cool but we’ll be fighting for that position tomorrow. I’d say this era of car is the worst for porpoising that I’ve ever experienced. For people watching at home, if the ride height is going high/low, high/low, when you turn in you never know which position you’ll catch it in and the car could oversteer or understeer depending where you catch it, so driving it is a real challenge – it’s like a rattlesnake! We need to find the right balance in ride height to give us performance while controlling the bouncing tomorrow. George and I tried slightly different things on our cars today so hopefully that’s good learning for the team to take into the race.’
‘We’re still learning, still trying to understand the car, it was bouncing around a lot today which was really limiting into the fast corners which was where I was losing all my time. I’ve not been overly comfortable in the car this weekend so I was pretty happy qualifying where we did – I think we’d have taken P5 and P6 before the session. There’s no reason why we can’t finish ahead of the McLaren tomorrow, we have to try and also keep Sainz and Alonso behind, although they both looked very quick today. Tomorrow will be tricky but I think we’ve found the best compromise window for the limitations we have and it will be a long race so let’s see what we can do.’
‘That was a good result for us today – in fact, we probably slightly over-performed with P5 and P6, because I think Alonso would have been ahead of us without his crash. But when you consider the challenges we are facing at the moment, the team worked very well to extract everything from the car after two difficult practice sessions yesterday. The drivers maximised their opportunities with the car that’s under them right now, and it’s great to see the positive approach they are bringing to each session as we continue learning. Tomorrow’s race will be a different challenge again: protecting the tyres will be important, and nobody has had the opportunity to gather much data after the red flag yesterday in FP2. So it will be another trip into the unknown – and hopefully we have made the right choices to deliver our performance across the full race distance.’
‘We found a bit of pace overnight with the changes and were able to get the tyres in a better temperature region today but there wasn’t much left in the car. The gaps to Ferrari and Red Bull are still worryingly large but not a surprise to us – we’ve known since Bahrain that we have a mountain to climb this year and the team is getting stuck into that challenge. We’ve focused on our race pace this weekend so hopefully we have good degradation but our hopes are quite realistic, we’re wanting to be there to capitalise on any mistakes or issues for Red Bull and Ferrari but we know we won’t be able to stay on the back of them.’