Lewis Hamilton’s fourth place and George Russell’s twelfth place do not faithfully capture the potential shown so far by Mercedes on the Catalunya circuit. The confirmation came yesterday evening from the disappointed faces of the team at the end of a Saturday that started in a completely different way.
“We will have to fight to get into Q3,” Hamilton said on Friday, the day in which the team seemed to proceed by exclusion on the setup front, sending two single-seaters onto the track with a different aerodynamic configuration.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell interviewed on the fan zone stage
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Twenty-four hours later there was a change of pace, and Hamilton started qualifying with the best time in Q1 confirmed by fourth in Q2. With Perez, Leclerc and Alonso out of contention, a front row goal alongside Verstappen was within reach.
Then something happened in the most important moment, that is in the only lap Lewis had available in Q3. “The data I read on the display was from the front row up to turn 10 – commented Hamilton – then on exit when I stepped on the accelerator the car broke down and I lost two tenths. We’ll have to understand why.”
A crucial margin, which took him from a potential second place to fifth, which he then became fourth in the evening due to the penalty inflicted on Gasly. “The positive aspect – added Lewis – is that the car was pleasant to drive, we are progressing and in the race it will be interesting to evaluate the steps forward in terms of pace”.
Hamilton made it possible to verify that the tire preparation work was done in the correct direction, which was not easy in yesterday’s qualifying. On the other side of the garage, things went differently, with Russell complaining about the lack of grip (related to the tyres) and the presence of bouncing.
The engineers have a clear idea of what went wrong. “George struggled to put the tires in the correct window – explained Andrew Shovlin – in the FP3 session we hadn’t encountered any problems, we’ll have to do some checks”
The disappointment with the general balance of qualifications is linked to the circumstances that did not allow the available potential to be fully exploited.
“We had more than what the classification says – commented Toto Wolff – but the positive aspect is that the changes (introduced in Monaco) to the front axle of the single-seater have solved many of the problems we had with the previous version. It is an important starting point, and I believe that from now on we will have more room for growth by being able to count on a new starting point”.
Mercedes W14, technical detail of the bottom
Photo by: Uncredited
On Saturday in Montmelò there was also a moment of high tension in the final minutes of the Q2 session when Hamilton and Russell collided in the straight straight, risking a sensational and dangerous accident.
At the root of the misunderstanding that brought the two riders into contact at over 300 km/h was a communication error. “We didn’t coordinate the two cars properly,” Shovlin clarified, confirming the suspicion that Hamilton and Russell were unaware they were both on a flying lap.
Lewis thought his teammate had just finished a fast lap, so he took to the slipstream and tried the overrun. Russell (not warned of Hamilton’s arrival) was instead focused on Sainz’s slipstream, and when he moved to the left to overtake the Ferrari he didn’t see that Lewis was already alongside him.
“It was a silly misunderstanding – commented Wolff – a lack of correct communication on which we will have to check”. The stewards did not consider the episode worthy of a sanction, and Russell will start from the sixth row without further penalties.