Lewis Hamilton admitted he was “a little bit gutted” after qualifying in Spain, because of the “huge improvement” Mercedes have made that has raised his expectations.
The seven-time World Champion will start sixth for the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, while championship leader Charles Leclerc will lead off from pole.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell managed to put himself on the second row for Sunday, with the reigning Constructors’ Champions having closed the gap to the front of the field after bringing upgrades to Barcelona which have dramatically reduced the ‘porpoising’ evident on the W13.
Hamilton was full of praise for his team and how they have put themselves in a better position, but raising the bar has meant his P6 grid slot doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as it would have done earlier in the season.
“The team have done such a great job,” Hamilton told Sky F1 after qualifying. “So [a] big, big, big thank you to everyone who continues to push back at the factory because we don’t have bouncing in a straight line, which is a huge improvement for us.
It's another pole position for Charles Leclerc!
Verstappen, Sainz, Russell and Perez round out the top five.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) May 21, 2022
“And the car has generally been nicer this weekend, we do have some bouncing through the high speed corners like Turn 3 and 9.
“So we just need to keep working away at it and try and see if we can improve that and gain a little bit more downforce elsewhere.
“But yeah, I’m a little bit gutted because I want to be further up ahead and you’ve obviously seen George is able to put it further ahead than I, but I will keep pushing.”
Friday practice gave an indication about the long-run pace of the teams around Barcelona, which tests the quality of the car’s chassis to its limits due to its mixed layout.
But while Hamilton acknowledged that Mercedes are unlikely to be fighting for the race win, he thought the strength of the W13 over a number of laps could put them in an “amazing” position to be best of the rest come Sunday.
“Yeah, definitely,” Hamilton said of his improved confidence in the W13’s race potential. “Yesterday was our best race pace that we’ve had.
“So if we can start racing with the Ferraris for example, that’d be amazing. I think the Red Bulls look like they might be quickest, but we might be able to compete with the Ferraris maybe tomorrow, and that’s a big step for us.”