Lewis Hamilton frustrated after Bahrain qualifying

Lewis Hamilton frustrated after Bahrain qualifying

Lewis Hamilton will be frustrated with his starting position for the Bahrain Grand Prix despite having a W15 machine that is optimized for race day.

Lewis Hamilton gave a scathing assessment of his first run of the 2024 F1 season after laughing and dubbing his ninth-place qualifying result in Bahrain “not great”. The British driver was unable to set a competitive time in a very close field and had to watch Mercedes teammate George Russell secure third place.

Hamilton and Mercedes dominated yesterday’s Formula 1 headlines after setting the fastest time in Practice 2. However, in today’s qualifying session, the seven-time world champion was unable to secure the W15 at the top.

According to Hamilton, the difference that appears now is a result of following different setup directions. Mercedes will inevitably experiment because this year’s car presents a fresh challenge. That’s why the setups at the Brackley squad’s garage ought to vary somewhat.

Hamilton was very clear that he deliberately chose to prioritize the race when he spoke with the media after qualifying. This gives some background, even though it doesn’t entirely explain his starting position.

Speaking following qualifying, Hamilton acknowledged that his car held back some speed, but he still believes he might move up the order as a result.

“It was not great. But I was genuinely really excited to be here,” the Mercedes driver said. “I think George’s position and pace really highlights, and is a real testament to the team, how hard everyone has worked over winter. It’s amazing to have a car we can fight with.

“It really unites the fire and flame within us drivers. For me, Bono [Peter Bonnington, his race engineer] and everyone did a great job, and I struggled in qualifying today.

“Yesterday, was really good. Me and George were on the same setups but he went left and I went right. Right was definitely not good for a single lap but I felt more comfortable with more fuel, so I hope that reflects tomorrow.

“I’ve definitely sacrificed more than I hoped to and I hope it pays off tomorrow. It’s a lot of work to do to get past all those quick cars ahead of me but it will be fun.”

The timing sheets from today’s last qualifying shootout are deceptive in a lot of ways. Based on perceptions, Max Verstappen is still the best driver in a highly competitive Red Bull machine.

Nevertheless, during the winter, rivals like Mercedes and Ferrari narrowed the difference. The top-5 are all working with baselines that can be relied upon to support long-term growth, unlike at this point in 2023.

This implies that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton can continue to advance their development without having to make any immediate concessions.

Verstappen is within striking distance and he still has the upper hand. The teams that can upset the Dutchman the most will be revealed tomorrow, but there is plenty of promise for an explosive season start.

It remains to be seen whether Russell’s setup choice will affect his performance in the Grand Prix.

“Everybody at the factory has done an amazing job to give Lewis and I a car that we feel much happier with and a base we can build upon,” Russell added.

“Ultimately, Max is still out there in front and we still have a lot of catching up to do. When we look at our qualifying performances in the last two years in Bahrain, and the race pace, starting in P3 for tomorrow is a great place.

“There’s been a huge amount of work. We have obviously made a big step forward in one lap pace and we hope we haven’t compromised the race pace. I think it will be a close fight between everybody apart from Max.

“Red Bull are so strong at the moment and Max is doing a great job. He’s got the new tyres. If there’s an opportunity to take the lead but ultimately the race for all of us is for second.

“But, nobody knows, it’s the first race of the season, I’m so excited to be back and let’s hope for some craziness.”

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