Sprint Podium Overshadowed By Qualifying Disaster For Lewis Hamilton

Sprint Podium Overshadowed By Qualifying Disaster For Lewis Hamilton
Sprint Podium Overshadowed By Qualifying Disaster For Lewis Hamilton

The Mercedes team suffered from mixed fortunes on Saturday at the Chinese Grand Prix. An entertaining Sprint earlier in the day saw Lewis Hamilton claim a strong P2 finish, with George Russell battling into the points in P8.

Both drivers took advantage of the updated Sprint format and made several set-up changes in the search for a better car balance.

Despite those changes, Qualifying for the Grand Prix would prove more difficult.

With the track evolving rapidly, Hamilton was unfortunate to lock up on his final push lap at the Turn 14 hairpin. That cost him over half a second and he was eliminated in P18.

Russell progressed through to Q3, but his last effort would only put him P8 and at the back of a tightly bunched pack of cars.

Lewis Hamilton

‘To be sat on the front row for the Sprint was a great feeling. Racing into turn one and taking the lead reminded me of what I love so much about this sport! It was a challenging race but to get second was great.

‘We knew Qualifying would be much more tough this afternoon though. I made some sizeable set-up changes after the Sprint to try and improve the car in the slow speed turns. It wasn’t too bad in some corners, but I struggled elsewhere. It was challenging to get the rear tyres to stop into turn 14 and that’s where I locked up on my final lap. If I hadn’t had that, I would have made it through to Q2. I’ll be giving it my best shot tomorrow. We can still have some fun even if we are starting from P18.

George Russell

‘We didn’t have our best day today. With the strong wind, it was very challenging out there. The conditions had changed from Friday too, so we had to adapt. We took the Soft tyre for the Sprint and it was definitely worth the gamble. It performed OK and it gave us some good learnings for tomorrow. Ultimately, we did well to score a point.

‘Qualifying was also tricky. My first lap in Q2 was looking very strong but the red flag forced us to abort. We had to use another set of new tyres to progress to Q3. Without that, we would have had two new sets for the final part of Qualifying and it could have been a different outcome but who knows. We are in that fight between P3 and P8 and, unfortunately, we’ve found ourselves at the back end of that battle in the last few races in Qualifying. Small differences can have a major impact.

‘It is hard to predict what will happen tomorrow. It’s all to play for with those cars around us so hopefully we have the pace to move forward.’

Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO

‘Second in the Sprint was a good result. Lewis made a very strong start and that opened up the potential of a strong finish for us. With George, the Soft tyre was a bit of an experiment that we wanted to try. It held on better than expected and that opens up more possibilities for Sunday. Ultimately, we knew that we had outperformed where the true pace of our car was in the Sprint.

‘We therefore decided to make some big set-up changes between the Sprint and Qualifying to try and improve the car’s low-speed performance. The drivers chose to go in pretty different directions to support our learning process, but it clearly didn’t work for us today on a single lap. Lewis would have progressed comfortably out of Q1 without a lock-up in Turn 14 that cost him more than half-a-second.

‘George made it through to Q3 solidly but had just one set of new tyres available. He set his fastest lap of the session, but like two weeks ago in Suzuka, was at the back of a close group where a couple of tenths equate to four or five grid positions. We now need to focus on racing and recovering strongly tomorrow and moving forwards with both cars.’

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

‘It was great to be able to hang onto P2 with Lewis in the Sprint and for George to make enough places up to get into the points. However, neither driver was happy with the car. The wind rotated overnight and made the balance very inconsistent. In some corners we were suffering with understeer and in others the rear was very weak. To try to address that, we made extensive changes to both cars going into Qualifying. The car was quite different and ultimately that caught Lewis out in Q1 with a big lock into the hairpin on his final lap. Without that he would have gone through comfortably.

‘George managed a little better, but it still wasn’t an easy car to drive. With only one new set of Soft tyres for Q3, P8 was ultimately the best we could do. We’re at the back of a tight bunch and small steps will change the picture quite quickly, but right now we’re not quick enough. We’ll run the usual simulations this evening to understand how to best optimise the situation for tomorrow, but we’re likely going to have to look for the opportunities to do things differently to others.’

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