Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver says Las Vegas GP qualifying was 'definitely difficult' after third Q2 exit of 2023 F1 season

by 24britishtvNov. 18, 2023, 5 p.m. 23

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver says Las Vegas GP qualifying was 'definitely difficult' after third Q2 exit of 2023 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes car "just wasn't working" for him as he was eliminated in the second part of qualifying for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Mercedes did not feature near the front during the practice sessions in Vegas and Hamilton failed to complete a final run in Q2, so was bumped down the order as several drivers improved, including the Williams' of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Hamilton will start from 10th, after Carlos Sainz's 10-place grid penalty - with lights out at 6am on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase - and will look to finish as high as possible in the points-paying positions, as he did in Miami and Zandvoort after suffering Q2 exits at those events earlier this year.
• When to watch the Las Vegas Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1
• Stream every F1 race and more with NOW | Get Sky Sports

His Mercedes team-mate George Russell fared better, though, to qualify fourth, and will start third due to Sainz's penalty.

"Just not that great. Yesterday was feeling a little bit better and we were looking relatively competitive," Hamilton said.

"Made some changes overnight, P3 was pretty poor, put me on the backfoot, and I was just trying to recover basically in qualifying which is never the place to do so. Just struggled with the grip.

"The car just wasn't working for me. It's definitely difficult when you can't even get through Q2, but it is what it is."

Mercedes expected to struggle in Las Vegas due to the long straights and slow-speed corners, which are reminiscent of Monza.

They are one of the slowest cars in the speed traps and have also had problems getting the car and tyres into the optimal working window, which is even tougher in Vegas due to the cold conditions, as Toto Wolff alluded to.

"Our pace remains a mystery. Having the tyres in the right window, you can see the difference. We already saw that in Free Practice Three. Very difficult to understand," said Wolff.

"Lewis didn't have any more grip. We are talking about four or five degrees difference in temperature between grip and no grip. You can see that some teams, like McLaren, they are normally at the front but are out in Q1. On the other side, the Ferraris put in stunning laps. Both of them half a second ahead of everyone else."

Mercedes' race pace is generally better than their one-lap speed but Hamilton has no idea if he can charge through the field on Sunday.

"My guess is as good as yours. One with the car and two, the tyre graining. Everyone has had tyre graining," he added.

"We had massive graining like everybody. We had some rear graining in P3 so I think how you manage it, how you progress, where you push and where you don't is going to be key. It's impressive watching Ferrari today - it's a quick car."

Perez: New track caught us out

Sergio Perez suffered more disappointment after failing to reach Q3 for a ninth time this season as he qualified in 12th and was knocked out in the second part of qualifying with Hamilton.

Red Bull elected to run Perez earlier than some of the other drivers to avoid traffic, after drama in Q1 where Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon nearly tangled.

But track evolution meant Perez dropped outside the top 10 when he was sat in the garage, and Red Bull's strategy of going into qualifying with just three sets of softs did not pay off.

"That was our strategy from the beginning. This track is a new track and it caught us out unfortunately," said Perez.

"It's something we will discuss internally. We were already lucky to get through Q1, so plenty of things to analyse from that."

McLaren had their worst qualifying since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as Lando Norris was 16th and Oscar Piastri qualified in 19th.

The Woking-based team have been Red Bull's closest challengers in recent events but the layout of Las Vegas, particularly the lack of high-speed corners, does not suit their car.

Norris and Piastri only used one set of new soft tyres in Q1, whereas most of the midfield runners put on a second new set towards the end, which both drivers feel may have been costly.

"It's not a surprise just because it's very close and when you're not quite comfortable and maybe one or two tenths off then it makes a difference," said Norris.

"Two tenths was between me and five positions. If a couple of things came together it could be like 'not a bad day'. Just been struggling with the car on this circuit. It's painful we didn't even get through to Q2.

"I don't think we necessarily did anything wrong. Should we have maybe done a pit stop and put a new set of softs on? Potentially, but a tough decision to make in the middle of qualifying.

"We got up to speed quickly, I think both myself and Oscar got up to speed very quickly and extracted a lot out of the car early on whereas everyone else got quicker and quicker and built up to it a bit more which gave us the wrong perception early on in the session."

When to watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports
• 6am: THE LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Showcase)

Watch the Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase, with lights out on Sunday at 6am. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW


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