Why Lewis Hamilton ‘came alive’ on his way to Chinese GP Sprint front row

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton excelled in the wet in China.

Lewis Hamilton placed his Mercedes on the front row in the wet in China.

Lewis Hamilton said his Sprint qualifying session “came alive” when the rain began to fall in Shanghai on Friday, admitting his Mercedes is “not quick enough” in dry conditions.

It looked as though Hamilton was about to take pole position for the first F1 Sprint of the season in China, only for a faster time by Lando Norris that was initially deleted by the FIA for a track limits violation on the previous lap to be reinstated.

Lewis Hamilton ‘came alive’ as he puts Mercedes on Sprint front row

Sprint qualifying started in dry conditions in Shanghai but by the end of SQ2, rain was falling and all 10 remaining drivers were running on intermediate tyres come SQ3, the final part of sprint qualifying.

Hamilton excelled in those conditions, going nine tenths faster than anyone else with one minute remaining in the session before Norris went a further second quicker still, before his time was deleted and subsequently reinstated.

The Mercedes driver admitted that he would not have had the pace in his W15 to challenge for such a position had the session stayed dry throughout, but sensed a chance when the rain began to fall.

“It was pretty tricky conditions, not a lot of grip as you saw for everyone,” Hamilton said after qualifying.

“But yeah, so happy. As soon as I saw the rain coming, I was getting excited because naturally in dry conditions we’re not quick enough.

“So when the rain came, then I kind of thought that I would have a bit of an opportunity and then that’s when it kind of all came alive.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 starting grid: What is the grid order for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix sprint?

Chinese GP: Lando Norris snatches pole as chaos and confusion erupt in the rain in Sprint qualifying

As for his prospects in Saturday’s Sprint, he believes that if the weather is the same as it was in qualifying, he might be able to be a factor in events.

But in the dry, Hamilton acknowledged that Mercedes are likely to be behind quicker cars in the pecking order.

“It really depends what the conditions will be,” the seven-time World Champion replied when asked about his Sprint prospects.

“If it’s like that, then maybe we’ll have a chance of being somewhere up there. I think if it’s dry, then naturally the Ferraris and the Red Bulls will come by and maybe we can hold off some of the others.”

On the other side of the garage, team-mate George Russell fell out of contention in SQ2 as the rain came down towards the end of the session.

He had stayed out in the hope of trying to improve his lap time, which was good enough for 11th, but as his rivals came into the pit lane, Russell could not improve with the weather worsening.

While admitting a slight degree of frustration after the session, Russell explained that the dry-weather pace between the teams was such that a small amount of lap time made a big difference.

When asked if his heart ‘sunk’ after seeing his qualifying end perhaps prematurely, Russell replied: I wouldn’t say it’s sunk, just a little bit frustrated.

“First lap, it was so close at getting into Q3 and just challenging conditions. Obviously the rain falling down now, who knows what could have happened in Q3?

“But as I said, you’ve got the sprint race tomorrow, you can recover some positions, and then got another chance to qualify tomorrow afternoon.”

Read next: Christian Horner contradicts Helmut Marko’s Carlos Sainz ‘lucrative deal’ inside info