Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes’ performance in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix shows where they need to make the most progress.
He took fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race, almost a full second slower than pole-winner Charles Leclerc. However the scale of Mercedes’ deficit to Red Bull on the straights particularly concerns Hamilton.
Max Verstappen hit 339.1kph at the finishing line in qualifying, 3.6kph faster than Hamilton’s Mercedes. Hamilton admitted that aspect of Red Bull’s superiority was unexpected.
“I didn’t really know what to expect this weekend,” he said. “I knew that the Red Bulls would be particularly quick. I didn’t realise we’d have such a huge deficit on the straights.”
However that data is “a good indicator” of where Mercedes needs to improve, said Hamilton. “We’re slower on the straights and then we’re slower in the middle sector. So we’ve got a lot of work to do to rectify that in the car.”
Hamilton added the W14 is still “not the easiest one to drive” at the moment. However he believes he might have been able to to pip Carlos Sainz Jnr to fourth place. The pair were separated by less than two-tenths of a second.
“It’s just timing and getting into the rhythm,” he said. “Really putting out everything is not easy on the track.
“In Q2, I struggled, I had more pace, I just didn’t get that last lap. My Q3 run one was a really sweet, sweet lap. Unfortunately I just wasn’t able – I just matched it, basically, at the end – but I needed just a little bit more time to nip a Ferrari.”
He doubts there will be much scope to improve the car ahead of tomorrow’s second qualifying session and sprint race.
“We can’t do any changes to the car. So if this is the pace that we have I might be able to eke a little more out tomorrow if we can do some studying tonight. But this is definitely a good position to start from Sunday.
“Naturally this is not the position we want as a team, we exist to win, everyone has that winning mindset and everyone is working as hard as they can. We haven’t had an upgrade this weekend but we’re working towards one that will hopefully put us a little bit closer to the battle.”
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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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