Lewis Hamilton has sent Mercedes a reality check by admitting he’s having to take ‘big risks’ to even get close to Red Bull and Ferrari after a difficult qualifying session at the Monaco Grand Prix. The seven-time champion had to settle for eighth in qualifying and described his car as ‘pretty bad’ despite some minor improvements from practice on Friday.
He said: “The red flags cost me my final lap, but I don’t think it was going to be much different to how it turned out anyway. In hindsight, I needed to get lap one on the tyres and I didn’t, after starting the lap in the wrong engine mode.
“But Monaco is just like that, and it was an unfortunate session. The car feels pretty bad out there and we’re having to take some big risks to get anywhere near the times of the cars in front.
“We improved the car from yesterday and got a little bit closer, but even with a perfect lap I think we’d still be six tenths off, which is a decent chunk. Now we need to see what the weather does tomorrow and try to make some progress up the field.”
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Hamilton’s first run was only quick enough for eighth but the seven-time champion still had enough time for a second run. However, his opportunity to better his time was scuppered after Perez lost control at turn eight, destroying the back of the Red Bull.
Seconds later, Sainz also lost control in the same corner which blocked the track and brought out the red flag. The accident gifted pole to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and ensured George Russell could beat Hamilton on a Saturday for the second consecutive weekend.
The Mercedes rookie was able to wrestle his car to sixth, behind Lando Norris who was an impressive fifth. The Silver Arrows believed they had solved their porpoising issues after a better showing at the Spanish Grand Prix.
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However, both drivers complained of heavy bouncing in Friday’s free practice sessions as the team appeared to take a step backwards this weekend. Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted the team has suffered from car problems across the weekend.
He explained: “A difficult day for the team and drivers; the car hasn’t been easy to work with here and the ride issues that we have suffered from have made it difficult for George and Lewis to have confidence in the car. We tried most things on the tyres and in the end, we were able to switch them on okay with sector one being our best sector.
“By the middle of the lap though we’d drop off the pace a bit through a mixture of some overheating and the fact that the ride issues cost more in the final two sectors.”