Lewis Hamilton has labelled the Mercedes W14 as “the hardest car” he has driven in the sport to get right.
Hamilton’s comments followed qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix. He will start tomorrow’s race in fifth after benefitting from an already disastrous weekend for Red Bull which saw both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez eliminated in Q2. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell will join polesitter Carlos Sainz on the front row.
“Happy for George, he did a mega job, he’s just been connected with the car all weekend,” Hamilton said after the session. “It started good for us yesterday, not so good today.”
The Mercedes driver added that he had made a set-up change overnight which took the car in the wrong direction.
“It is the hardest car that I’ve ever driven to get right,” he said after qualifying over four-tenths of a second slower than Russell.
With Red Bull out of the picture, the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren all fancy their chances at claiming a first win of the season.
Hamilton has backed Russell, whose 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix victory remains the most recent race Red Bull failed to win, to claim a first victory of the season for the Silver Arrows.
“I think George has a really good shot at potentially winning. I really hope that he does, hope he gets a great start and gets ahead of the Ferraris, that would be amazing for the team and for him.
“For me it’s just I’ll see what I can do. If I can get further up, then great. The car was good yesterday on the long run but I changed the car overnight and now I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow with the car.”
With the exception of FP1, Russell has proven to be the leading Mercedes driver after challenging Sainz for pole. The Briton missed out by 0.072s.
“I’ve been really happy with this weekend as a whole. I’ve felt confident in the car and the team did a great job with the tyre strategy,” Russell said in response to his performance.
“We are on an offset strategy compared to everybody else, so we have an extra set of Medium tyres tomorrow which nobody around us has. So, to get to Q3, and then the front row, with just four sets of tyres and a strategic advantage, that’s an exciting place to be.
“It was a challenging session in the car – sitting in the garage, it’s like being in a sauna, and you just need to keep your composure and stay cool.
“The same will be true tomorrow: traditionally this has been a one-stop race, but the new circuit layout has possibly changed that.
“I think it’s going to be close between a one- and a two-stop, and with that extra Medium tyre available, we can put pressure on Ferrari and try and force an error to get the upper hand. That’s what we’re looking for.”