Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q1 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – his worst qualifying campaign since Brazil 2017 when he crashed. However, this time it was down to pure pace as Mercedes’ struggles reached a cliff edge. It was the first time the Brit has been knocked out on engine power since Silverstone 2009. After the session, he said: “So sorry guys”.
Hamilton appeared in the media pen shortly after and added: “Just struggled with the balance of the car. Not where we want to be.” Hamilton continued that the team went the “wrong way” with the setup ahead of the session. He also saved some words for Mick Schumacher after his high-speed crash, saying: “I hope he’s okay”. There were warnings ahead as Hamilton could only manage 11th fastest in third practice.
After the session, Sky Sports F1 host Paul di Resta had warned his body language was a major concern for Mercedes. He said: “When Lewis got out of the car in FP3 he stood at the back of the car. If images gave you any impression that they are in a bit of a crisis and that engineering office is going to be working hard that’s it. “I haven’t seen Lewis Hamiton do that for a very long time.”
After qualifying, he described Hamilton’s performance as “odd”. Yesterday, Hamilton said: “It’s been an OK day, we still have many of the same problems we had in the last race but we’re working through them. It’s definitely a little bit harder here with the high-speed corners but the grip is really good on the track and we just need to find some speed on the straights.
“We’ll be heads down tonight, understanding the data from today and putting ourselves in the best position for qualifying tomorrow.” In FP3, all Mercedes customer teams were ranked 15th to 20th in a shock performance for the powertrain. Mercedes have been the third-fastest car in F1 so far in 2022 behind Red Bull and Ferrari. Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, said:
“We tried a few more experiments to understand the bouncing issue here, some which made it worse, some which helped, but we don’t yet have a solution to make the problem go away. “We can reduce this slightly for tomorrow as it’s affecting the drivers in a few of the corners and costing time. Compared to Bahrain, the car balance is in a better place and in terms of degradation we’re quite happy with what we have seen today.
Our single lap still needs a bit of work but we’ve got the session tomorrow to do that. “Overall though, a reasonable day but clearly we still have a bit of work to do before we’ll be troubling Red Bull or Ferrari.”