Hamilton ‘excited’ after rainy Chinese Sprint qualifying

Hamilton 'excited' after rainy Chinese Sprint qualifying

Lewis Hamilton was “excited” as rain fell during the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint qualifying and will be starting Saturday’s race from second on the grid after securing his best finish.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton acknowledged that he was excited about his team’s potential to pull off an unexpected victory following the prospect of rain during Friday’s Sprint qualifying session at Shanghai International Circuit.

In the wet and chaotic conditions, Hamilton began his quest to secure the pole for Saturday morning’s Sprint race and quickly rose to the top of the times in SQ3, particularly after Lando Norris’s time was deleted for track limits at Turn 16.

However, Norris’s time was reinstated by the stewards, with it being an all-British front-row with Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen slotting in behind.

This comes after the seven-time world champion missed out in the top ten in the first round of Sprint Qualifying and barely made it through the final cut at the end of SQ2 when the rain suddenly began to pour, forcing everyone to switch to intermediate tyres.

After turning in what looked to be a pole-winning lap time of 1:59.201 seconds, Hamilton was demoted to shotgun position on the grid for tomorrow’s race by Lando Norris, who executed a last-minute flyer that was over a second quicker.

After the session, Hamilton, who has endured the worst start to an F1 season ever expressed his excitement over the rain.

“It was very tricky conditions, there was not a lot of grip as you saw for everyone,” Hamilton explained. “As soon as I saw the rain coming, I was getting excited because naturally in dry conditions, we are not quick enough.

“So when the rain came, I kind of thought I would have a bit of an opportunity – and that is when it all came alive.”

Hamilton expressed his desire for more rainy circumstances after he was questioned how he felt the Sprint would turn out, but was concerned that his Mercedes W15 would not be able to take on the Ferrari and Red Bull quartet starting behind it.

“Our Sprint will really depend on what the conditions will be, if it is like [the Sprint Shootout], then maybe we will have a chance of being up there,” he added. “If it is dry then naturally, the Ferraris and Red Bulls will come by but maybe we can hold off some of the others.”

Hamilton’s teammate George Russell did not manage to advance to the final round, underscoring Mercedes’ lackluster performance in the dry. Russell said that his failure to make the cut was as a result of being held up in line for his final run.

“We tried sending it as early as we could, and then obviously got stuck,” he said. “I think 12 cars were ahead of us, just sat in the pit lane, so we had a loss of tyre temperature.

“It was close – one more tenth and you are four or five positions higher. It’s just a shame to be on the bottom end of that, but we’ve got a chance to recover in the sprint race. Maybe make some tweaks overnight and go from there.”

Unlike Hamilton, Russell hadn’t been at all happy when the rain arrived.

“I wouldn’t say sunk, just a little bit frustrated after the first lap,” he added. “It was so close getting into Q3 – who knows what could have happened?”

Everyone agrees that in a dry Sprint, the two Red Bull cars and the two Ferraris will be faster, but Wolff believes Hamilton might challenge Norris early on.

“I don’t think we have the pace against the Red Bulls, but we are against the McLarens,” the Mercedes team boss said.

“Having said that, we don’t know. We have no data from FP1. It could be that they are much quicker too, or the other way around.”

Mercedes would have benefited significantly if Norris’s pole-winning lap time was completely deleted due to violating track limits. Wolff did, however, indicate that he was fine with the decision to reinstate his time.

“I haven’t seen the detail,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 in the paddock in Shanghai. “I’ve just seen ‘four tyres off track’. But honestly that was even slower, so he could have probably gone faster. So I’m okay with that.”

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