Lewis Hamilton admitted to being surprised that he was able to fight towards the front of the field during Saturday’s Qualifying session for the Spanish Grand Prix.
For much of the day, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver looked to be Max Verstappen’s closest challenger for pole position at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but ultimately he ended up fifth fastest, although he will gain a position thanks to a penalty for Pierre Gasly.
Hamilton had been nowhere when it came to pace and performance during Friday’s free practice sessions, and he credited his team for their hard work overnight to extract more from the W14.
“I was a little bit surprised to see us so far up today and ultimately competing for the front-row of the grid,” said Hamilton. “We did some great work overnight with our analysis of yesterday; we all did a lot of work trying to figure out where we could find more lap time.
“I knew when I woke up this morning that I was on a mission, although I didn’t expect we would be fighting for P2. On my final lap, I think I was on the front-row all the way until turn 10. I got on the power and the car just snapped into oversteer; I will have to check but I think that’s where I lost two tenths.
“Nevertheless, I really enjoyed driving the car today and I’m really encouraged to see where it is at. A big thank you to everyone at the factory as it shows we are progressing.”
Hamilton survived a clash with team-mate George Russell towards the end of Q2, with miscommunication between the two being cited for the two hitting each other on the straight as both attempted to start their final flying laps.
“The incident with George was just a miscommunication,” Hamilton. “Obviously, we made some contact and I put a wheel on the grass.
“The car didn’t feel different afterwards though, so I think it will be OK.”
“Straight out of the box, I felt like I had no grip from the tyres” – George Russell
Whereas Hamilton was a contender for the front row, Russell had a much more difficult day even without the clash with his team-mate, and he found himself eliminated at the end of Q2.
Russell felt the grip levels around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya were non-existent for him, and he found himself unable to go flat-out through corners as he had been able to previously in free practice.
“It was an odd qualifying session today,” said Russell. “It was clearly tricky for everyone out there and it was quite a mixed-up order.
“Straight out of the box, I felt like I had no grip from the tyres, and I was really struggling with the car. It was starting to bounce a lot in the high-speed turns so I couldn’t go flat out through corners we were able to in FP3.
“I wasn’t surprised to be knocked out in Q2 because the car was off the pace. I didn’t have a good feeling with it so it’s disappointing.”
Analysing the incident with Hamilton, Russell admitted he did not know his team-mate was there as he was looking to get a slipstream from Scuderia Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. ahead of his final flying lap in a bid to jump into the top ten.
“I’m not too sure what happened in the incident with Lewis,” Russell insisted. “It was all quite surprising. I was starting my push lap and getting the slipstream from Sainz ahead.
“Next thing I know Lewis was alongside me. We’re fortunate nothing more serious happened and it was clearly a big miscommunication from all of us in the Team.
“It didn’t contribute to the lack of pace though and that was the main problem for me. We’re starting quite a few positions lower than we should be, but I’m sure tomorrow will be a better day.”