Surprise Mercedes pace leads to Lewis Hamilton confusion in Qatar

Mercedes’ unexpected pace confused Lewis Hamilton in Qatar

After narrowly escaping Q1, Hamilton was then fastest in Q2, before the seven-time world champion took third place on the grid at the Qatar Grand Prix, after Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri breached the speed limit .

Mercedes team-mate George Russell will be second on Sunday, in one of the team’s best combined qualifying of the season so far.

Hamilton admitted he felt his session was “relatively average” on Friday, at the recently relaunched Lusail circuit, and the pace increased as qualifying progressed.

But after nearly retiring early in qualifying, Hamilton and Mercedes climbed the time screen, performing well to put themselves in the race to become “best left” behind the dominant Max Verstappen, who achieved to pole position.

Hamilton was full of praise for his team’s efforts, while also admitting confusion surrounding fluctuations in the team’s performance from training session to session. “Definitely,” Hamilton replied when asked if he was surprised by the pace Mercedes showed in Qatar on Friday.

“I mean, it’s still confusing because I was almost out of Q1, which was incredibly frustrating at the time, but then we got into Q2 and suddenly we were there again, so that very, very strange.

“But it was great for the whole team that we were there, and George did really well today so for us to be so close, it was really great.

“I mean, for me it was a relatively average qualifying session, especially Q1 and Q3. Yes, if I can do the lap like I did in [Q2] then that lap came so early in Q2, so I’d love to get that in Q3. »

As for Russell, he will line up on the front row alongside Verstappen on Sunday and believes Mercedes’ recent change in form on Saturday was “quite special”. A common theme of the season has been that Mercedes have struggled through qualifying to gain race positions, but the Briton was happy to see the team come out of the blocks on Friday as they prepare for a final day sprint week in Qatar.

Russell said: “I think the second half of the season has been exciting, the qualifying pace is really outstanding compared to the start of the year and I feel really confident in the car.”

“But this weekend we certainly didn’t expect to line up P2 and P3 on the grid on Sunday, so this was a very pleasant surprise.

“Of course, Lando was ahead of us and his marginal distance made no difference to his speed advantage.

“So we know we are half a step away from McLaren, but now we are also fighting with Ferrari. “That’s our goal for the rest of the season and we just need to score as many points as possible to achieve that.”

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