hamilton mercedes china wants wet race

Hamilton: I’ll be doing the Rain Dance hoping for a wet race

hamilton mercedes china wants Hamilton: I'll be doing the Rain Dance hoping for a wet race

Another Grand Prix Qualifying and another woeful performance by Mercedes, this time in China where Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were outclassed and will start Sunday’s race in Shanghai from P18 and P8 respectively.

It was a rare occasion with, 104-time Formula 1 pole position winner, Hamilton stranded in Q1 will start his 336th Formula 1 race from P18 on the grid. In contrast, Russell made it through to Q3 but when it came time to up the ‘firepower’ he lacked 0.773s to Max Verstappen’s pole-winning time in the Red Bull.

The timesheets showed that Mercedes customers, namely the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso will start ahead of Russell, while Hamilton was only slower than Logan Sargeant of the Merc-powered brigade.

After the session in Shanghai, half a second slower than Russell in the first stanza of Qualifying, Hamilton admitted fault: “It was my mistake. I just struggle. I can’t seem to stop the car at Turn 14. It just kept locking, I needed one more lap.”

P2 in the Sprint Race earlier in the day did not translate to GP Qualifying pace, Hamilton explained why: “The car is massively different, we changed a lot. But yeah, I’m hoping tomorrow is going to be a bit better. I hope it rains now. I need the rain so need to do the rain dance.”

Hamilton: We can still have some fun even if we are starting from P18

Later in the Mercedes report from Qualifying, Hamilton summed up his first Sprint Race weekend of the season thus far: “To be sat on the front row for the Sprint was a great feeling. Racing into turn one and taking the lead reminded me of what I love so much about this sport! It was a challenging race but to get second was great.

“We knew Qualifying would be much tougher this afternoon though. I made some sizeable set-up changes after the Sprint to try and improve the car in the slow-speed turns. It wasn’t too bad in some corners, but I struggled elsewhere.

“It was challenging to get the rear tyres to stop into turn 14 and that’s where I locked up on my final lap. If I hadn’t had that, I would have made it through to Q2. I’ll be giving it my best shot tomorrow. We can still have some fun even if we are starting from P18,” reckoned Hamilton, a six time winner of the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Rusell was equally frank about his session: “Qualifying was tricky. My first lap in Q2 was looking very strong but the red flag forced us to abort. We had to use another set of new tyres to progress to Q3. Without that, we would have had two new sets for the final part of Qualifying and it could have been a different outcome but who knows.

Russell: It is hard to tell what will happen

Russell: It is hard to tell what will happen

“We are in that fight between P3 and P8 and, unfortunately, we’ve found ourselves at the back end of that battle in the last few races in Qualifying. Small differences can have a major impact.”

“It’s all to play for with those cars around us so hopefully we have the pace to move forward,” added Russell, who has only raced once at the venue, back in 2019 when he finished P16 for Williams. Hamilton won that day for the Silver Arrows.

The problem with Mercedes over the past few seasons is that they don’t understand their package. Each race weekend they are not sure what car will roll out of the garage. And then tend to go backwards between practice and Qualifying when trying to ‘improve’ the car.

Team boss Toto Wolff alluded to that in the Merc Shanghai Qualy review: “We decided to make some big set-up changes between the Sprint and Qualifying to try and improve the car’s low-speed performance. The drivers chose to go in pretty different directions to support our learning process, but it clearly didn’t work for us today on a single lap.”

Wolff: We now need to focus on racing and recovering strongly

Wolff: We now need to focus on racing and recovering strongly hamilton

The Mercedes F1 team boss continued: “Lewis would have progressed comfortably out of Q1 without a lock-up in Turn 14 that cost him more than half-a-second. George made it through to Q3 solidly but had just one set of new tyres available.

“He set his fastest lap of the session, but like two weeks ago in Suzuka, was at the back of a close group where a couple of tenths equate to four or five grid positions.

“We now need to focus on racing and recovering strongly and moving forward with both cars,” concluded Wolff, whose team’s best result in four GPs so far this season is P5. And it is hard to imagine they will fare better at the 18th Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Mercedes trackside boss Andrew Shovlin hinted at the game plan in his summary: “We’re at the back of a tight bunch and small steps will change the picture quite quickly, but right now we’re not quick enough.

“We’ll run the usual simulations this evening to understand how to best optimise the situation for the race, but we’re likely going to have to look for opportunities to do things differently to others,” added Shovlin.