Lewis Hamilton offers glum assessment of Mercedes’ Austria race pace

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023.

Lewis Hamilton cut a downbeat figure after qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, picking out where he feels his team are in the pecking order.

The seven-time World Champion is set to start Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix from fifth on the grid, having put in a best lap almost half a second slower than pole-sitter Max Verstappen around the 65-second Red Bull Ring.

After two race weekends in which Mercedes appeared the second-quickest team, or very close to it in the case of Canada, the Spielberg circuit doesn’t appear to suit Mercedes quite as much as Hamilton offered his thoughts on where he feels the race pace lies in the pecking order.

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes maybe only fourth-quickest

Asked to assess his fifth-place qualifying position, Hamilton was blunt as he spoke to media after Friday’s action.

“It’s not P1,” he said.

“I’ll take it and I’ll try to work with it for tomorrow.”

Gauging where Mercedes are in the pecking order, Hamilton said that at least two teams are quicker than Mercedes, and possibly even a third even if Aston Martin’s drivers qualified behind him.

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“I think our race pace was possibly around third-fastest times, so I think the Red Bulls and the Ferraris are quicker,” he said.

“And maybe the Aston Martins, so maybe we’re fourth. Not quite sure exactly.

“We’re just trying to focus on just trying to get around as quickly as we can today. It was a very difficult session.

“It’s not an easy circuit, our car in general in the past has never really suited the circuit and it showed that again today.

“So it was a really tough session, but we got through it.”

How might Mercedes fare in the Sprint?

The weekend essentially resets for Saturday’s track time, with the Sprint shootout and race forming its own mini-event before Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Having the chance to qualify again on Saturday for the Sprint race, Hamilton was asked whether it’s a case of damage limitation for the shorter race.

“We’re not going to have damage limitation because we haven’t even qualified for it yet,” he commented.

“We’re just going to try and see if we can do better in Sprint Qualifying tomorrow.

“It depends on the weather and the temperatures, and then from fifth in the race on Sunday, that’s a good strong position to start from.

“Last year, I started further back and it was a tough race. So I’m hoping we can have a better race on Sunday.”

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