Lewis Hamilton had little praise for the Mercedes W14 after a difficult Monza qualifying where he managed only P8 on the Italian GP grid.
Having been on the backfoot through Friday, Hamilton wrestled back the upper hand from Mercedes team-mate George Russell in FP3, sparking hope of a stronger qualifying to come.
But, while Russell went on to secure P4 on the grid, the best Hamilton could manage was P8 as he prepares to share the fourth row with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton was “struggling” with Mercedes W14
Hamilton would shed some light on where it went wrong for him in Q3, lamenting how difficult it is to get the W14 in its optimum working window.
“I lost it all in I think the second or last sector, I was up in the first, a bit of the second, but I was just struggling with the car,” Hamilton told media including PlanetF1.com.
“Our car just in general is very hard to optimise, there’s nothing easy about this one.”
P8 on the grid then was not the starting spot which Hamilton had in mind, but in contrast, Russell was very happy indeed with his effort.
The gap to polesitter, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, was 0.377s, but Russell said he exploited the maximum from the W14, as chasing another three-tenths would have put him in the gravel traps which lurk around much of the Monza circuit.
He also pointed to the difference which the Pirelli tyres made in the sessions, with hards mandated for Q1, mediums for Q2 and softs for Q3, under the Alternative Tyre Allocation.
“Really happy with P4,” he declared to media including PlanetF1.com. “We set the car up a bit more for the race because we weren’t expecting to be as quick as a team as we were, and it’s a great place to start.
“P4 was the maximum potential today. If I went in trying to do a lap for pole, trying to find three extra tenths, I’d have ended up in the gravel, because three-tenths extra is just not possible.
“We know how important the tyres are, this is prime example. Q1, P13, Q3, P4, and the only thing that changed is the tyres.”
Looking ahead to the race, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen remains the overwhelming favourite to win from P2 on the grid, as he chases a record 10th victory in a row, so Russell has his sights set on battling Ferrari ahead.
But, he believes Mercedes will need to nail their pit stops and strategy, anticipating that it will prove difficult to overtake the Ferraris at their home venue.
“I think we’ll have good race pace,” said Russell. “The tyre deg doesn’t look very high, never really is here in Monza.
“And with the skinny rear wings, overtaking is not actually that easy because even when you open the DRS, you only gain one or two tenths, so we need to be faster on pit stops. I expect to have better tyre deg than Ferrari.
“So our only chance is to, as I said, be faster on our pit stops and do something slightly different to them.”
Mercedes will be looking to further secure their P2 spot in the current Constructors’ Championship on Sunday, their buffer over Aston Martin in P3 currently standing at 40 points.