Lewis Hamilton’s verdict on Baku F1 sprint race: ‘Like a long run in practice’

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton sits in the press conference. Jeddah March 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton contemplates during the pre-race press conference. Saudi Arabia March 2023.

Lewis Hamilton has given his assessment of the first sprint of the F1 2023 season in Baku, likening the race to a long run in Friday practice.

With the number of sprint events doubled from three to six this year, F1 announced changes to the format ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix with an additional qualifying session, known as the Sprint Shootout, replacing FP2 on Saturday morning.

Rather than setting the grid for the sprint race as in 2021/22, Friday qualifying established the order for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, creating a self-contained sprint Saturday for the middle day of a race weekend.

Having outqualified Mercedes team-mate George Russell for the first time in 2023 on Friday, Hamilton struggled on Saturday in Baku.

Only sixth – three-tenths slower than fourth-placed Russell in the Sprint Shootout – Hamilton slipped to P7 in the sprint race and crossed the line five seconds behind Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

Hamilton admitted to struggling throughout the day in Baku but is hopeful that the data from the sprint can result in an improved performance on Sunday – despite setup being largely locked in with cars under parc ferme conditions since Friday qualifying.

He told the official F1 website: “It was a bit of a struggle, not the most exciting 17 laps.

“I struggled with the car compared to qualifying.

“Those are the [car] paces that you’re going to see tomorrow, I think.

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“I definitely have some good learnings from this session in terms of where I place the car for tomorrow.

“[The sprint] was basically like a long run in P2 – a bit longer than you would normally get in P2 – but [gave] a good idea of where to set the car for tomorrow.

“Hopefully, I’ll have better race pace.”

Hamilton confessed that he simply did not have the pace of cars around him during the sprint, but is convinced that the Saturday taster will have him shaping up better for the Grand Prix proper.

As per Crash.net, he added: “It wasn’t ideal losing the position to Alonso.

“It’s never great going backwards but that’s motor racing sometimes.

“I didn’t have the pace of the cars ahead of me, but I know why that is now, from having the sprint.

“It’s a good indicator of what the problem is in terms of setup, so we’ll look into it and hopefully make some improvements tomorrow.

“It’s going to be tough, but anything can happen.”