Surprise Mercedes pace leads to Lewis Hamilton confusion in Qatar

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton clambers into his car.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton lowers himself into his car.

Lewis Hamilton admitted his and Mercedes’ pace was “confusing” in Qatar, given the up-and-down nature of his qualifying session.

After narrowly avoiding a Q1 exit, Hamilton then went fastest of anyone in Q2, before the seven-time World Champion secured third on the grid for the Qatar Grand Prix, following track limits violations for both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell will line up second on Sunday, in one of the team’s best combined qualifying sessions of the season so far.

Up-and-down pace ‘confusing’ to Lewis Hamilton after Qatar qualifying

Hamilton admitted he felt like his session was “relatively average” on Friday, on a newly-resurfaced Lusail Circuit that was ramping up in pace as qualifying progressed.

But after narrowly avoiding an early dropout in qualifying, Hamilton and Mercedes surged up the timing screens, performing well to put themselves in the hunt to be ‘best of the rest’ behind a dominant Max Verstappen, who sailed to pole position.

Hamilton was full of praise for his team’s effort, while acknowledging the confusion of the team’s fluctuation in performance from one session to another.

“Absolutely,” Hamilton responded when asked if he was surprised by the pace Mercedes showed in Qatar on Friday.

“I mean, it’s always confusing because I was nearly out of Q1, which is incredibly frustrating in that moment, but then we get into Q2 and all of a sudden we’re right up there, so it’s very, very strange.

“But it’s really great for all the team for us to be up there, and George did a great job today so for us to be so close, it’s pretty awesome.

“I mean, for me it was a relatively average qualifying session, Q1 and Q3 particularly. Yeah, if I was able to put together the lap like I did in [Q2], the lap came too early in Q2, so I wish I had that for Q3.” recommends

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As for Russell, he will line up on the front row of the grid alongside Verstappen on Sunday, and believes Mercedes’ turmaround in form on Saturdays has been “quite exceptional” of late.

The general theme of the season is that Mercedes had struggled in qualifying to make up ground in race pace, but the Briton was pleased to see the team burst out of the blocks on Friday as they gear up for a Sprint weekend in Qatar.

“I think it’s been interesting, the second half of the season,” Russell said, “the quali pace has been really quite exceptional compared to the start of this year and I’m feeling really confident in the car.

“But this weekend, we definitely weren’t expecting to be lining up P2 and P3 on the grid for Sunday, so that is a real pleasant surprise.

“Of course, Lando was ahead of us and his marginal off wasn’t the difference for his pace advantage.

“So we know that we’re half a step behind McLaren, but equally our fight’s with Ferrari at the moment.

“That’s our aim for the remainder of the season, and we just need to secure as many points as possible to seal it off.”

Read next: Qatar Grand Prix: Max Verstappen storms to pole as Lando Norris stripped of front row