Lewis Hamilton says qualifying in the middle of the grid leaves him vulnerable to a first-lap collision at the new Las Vegas Street Circuit.
The track is holding its first race this weekend and drivers are concerned the lack of grip on the grid, plus the short run into turn one, could lead to incidents at the start.
“It’s going to be super-tough,” said Hamilton, who is set to start tomorrow’s race from 10th on the grid after Carlos Sainz Jnr’s penalty is applied. “It’s short down to turn one and I’m in the thick of it, so that’s not the best place to be.”
He admitted he’s got “a lot of work to do” from his mid-grid starting position in the race and is unsure how much progress he will be able to make.
“We’re all on low wing, there’s going to be a lot of deg[radation]. There may be more deg than we know, no one’s driven the hard tyre yet.
“But Max [Verstappen] has two hards [tyre sets], two mediums, we have one medium and two hards. So it’s going to be a long race. It’s going to be about managing degradation, I would say.”
However, he said qualifying had been made difficult as he lacked “confidence and grip” and failed to make the cut for Q3 by less than three-hundredths of a second.
“I just struggled,” said Hamilton. “Yesterday it was getting better and I was more competitive. Then we made some changes overnight and it didn’t feel great today. This car is just on a bit of a knife-edge.”
George Russell put the other Mercedes fourth on the grid, which means he will start third after Sainz’s penalty. The team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said Russell had been “happier with his balance today” than Hamilton.
“Lewis felt like he’d lost a bit of confidence in the car. We’d wound back on a few of those changes going into qualifying, but the car wasn’t working for Lewis and ultimately, he got bumped in Q2 by a small margin. George was having a happier time and put together three solid runs.”
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