Hamilton sacrificed one-lap pace for strong race set-up


Lewis Hamilton believes a set-up on his Mercedes W15 geared towards race day compromised his qualifying speed in Friday’s shootout in Bahrain, which left him a lowly P9 at the end of the day. But the choice should leave him in good stead for Saturday's event.

The Briton ended Q3 over half a second behind pacesetter Max Verstappen and over two tenths behind his Mercedes teammate George Russell who was third in Friday’s evening session.

Hamilton – who topped FP2 on Thursday – admitted that he had struggled out on track compared to his teammate, a situation that reflected an overnight divergence in set-ups for the two drivers.

“I think George’s position and the pace that George showed today is a real testament to the team, just how hard everyone’s worked through the winter,” the seven-time world champion told Sky.

“It’s amazing for us to have a car that we can fight with. It just really lights the fire and the flame within us drivers.

“For me, [race engineer] Bono and everyone did a great job. I just struggled with it in qualifying. Just in general today.

“Yesterday it was really good, George and I were on the same set-ups and then he went left and I went right and I think right was definitely not good for a single lap, but I felt more comfortable with more fuel, so I hope that reflects tomorrow.”

Hamilton reckoned that he “definitely sacrificed more than I hoped to” in terms of his set-up, “but I hope that it pays off tomorrow.

“We’ll see. It’s a lot of work to do to get past all those quick cars ahead of me. But it’ll be fun.”

After the session, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff suggested that the contrast in performance between Russell and Hamilton was down to “tiny margins”.

“You get the tyre in the optimum window, it’s just two-tenths the difference, and then you’re right in the game,” Wolff said.

“I think the P3 is okay. We thought we had a little bit more pace, we were three-tenths off pole. Yesterday it looked better, but we put the car in a sweet spot for tomorrow’s race, at least this is what we hope.

“I think the set-up changes that we made, they contributed to this performance today. At the beginning of qualifying, we thought maybe we’ve taken too much performance off, sacrificed for tomorrow’s race.

“But then at the end we got it quite okay with George. Tomorrow should be better but we are still learning about this car.”

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