Lewis Hamilton predicts ‘long race’ as Qatar Grand Prix goals revealed

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton clambers into his car.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton lowers himself into his car.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the Qatar Grand Prix hoping to keep the Ferraris and McLarens behind, but knows a “long” road is ahead to make that happen.

Sprint Saturday did not get off to a positive start for Hamilton, who was unable to make it into the Q3 stage of qualifying as he was forced to settle for P12 on the grid.

It was a solid recovery mission from there though, Hamilton snubbing the soft tyres in favour of the mediums, which helped him on his way to a P5 finish.

Lewis Hamilton sets out Qatar Grand Prix goals

Hamilton said he had not expected the soft tyre to be up to the task of going 19 laps, and while multiple Safety Car periods threatened to save the day for those on the soft compound, ultimately the grip went away as the medium tyre runners reaped the rewards.

“I was happy to start on the mediums, didn’t think the softs were going to last, and they didn’t,” Hamilton told Sky F1. “But it was definitely difficult to start them up.

“It was definitely fun. I think the Safety Car laps I was wondering whether or not it would reduce the impact it would have on the soft naturally, because it was less pushing laps, but fortunately we got running again and I had a couple of good battles out there.”

Hamilton will have a far better starting spot for Sunday’s Grand Prix as he prepares to launch from P3, a position behind his Mercedes team-mate George Russell with newly-minted three-time World Champion Max Verstappen on pole.

Hamilton is not planning on taking the fight to Verstappen, but will set out to keep rivals McLaren and Ferrari at bay.

Charles Leclerc is the lead Ferrari in P5, while Qatar sprint winner Oscar Piastri heads the McLaren charge from P6.

“I hope we can hold position, that will be amazing as a team,” said Hamilton of his Qatar Grand Prix goals.

“I think it will be difficult to beat Red Bull, but the goal is to keep the Ferraris behind and if there’s any way of keeping the McLarens behind, we’ll do that, but it’s going to be a long race.”

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George Russell now knows soft tyre does not work

Russell was one of those drivers to take a punt on the softs, which delivered the goods initially as he took the lead from Piastri, but the degradation would later set in as he dropped to P4 at the chequered flag.

But, that was a valuable lesson learned, while Russell says Mercedes now also know their race pace against Ferrari “looked good”, a major boost to their hopes of finishing ahead of their rival for P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Asked if a higher finishing position was possible if he had used the medium tyre, Russell told Sky F1: “No, I don’t think so. It was a really satisfying race. I don’t think we could have done any more than that.

“We made a great start into P2, really good overtake on Oscar, great restarts, all three of them were really good.

“And that’s sprint races, you don’t know the answers, because you don’t get the practice during the race weekend.

“So we know ahead of tomorrow now that that soft tyre doesn’t work, it’s probably going to be a two-stop race. In the end P4, maybe one point lost, but the good news is our pace over Ferrari looked good.”

Mercedes were able to slightly build their buffer over Ferrari in the Qatar sprint, with the gap now 24 points.

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