Lewis Hamilton was the shock driver to fall in Q2 in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in his final qualifying session with the unloved Mercedes W14 car.
Hamilton admitted after Friday practice that making Q3 on Saturday would be an achievement and could only manage 11th in the second qualifying segment.
Hamilton improved to 10th on his final lap in the closing seconds of Q2, but found himself back in the drop zone after team-mate Russell shot up to fourth.
“There’s something not right with this car, mate,” Hamilton, who has been visibly less comfortable than Russell all weekend, was heard telling his race engineer Pete Bonington after his elimination was confirmed.
Hamilton’s early exit came after Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz fell in Q1, with Mercedes holding a four-point lead over the Scuderia in the fight for second in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of the last race.
A lowly grid position for the season finale comes at a challenging time for Hamilton, who found himself at the centre of a mini F1 storm in the buildup to Abu Dhabi after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner accused the seven-time World Champion of approaching him – and Ferrari – about a move away from Mercedes for 2024.
Hamilton signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes in August, committing his future to the team until the end of 2025.