Hamilton declares entire Melbourne weekend 'a real struggle'


Lewis Hamilton's Australian GP ended prematurely with his Mercedes suffering a power unit failure on lap 17, capping what had already been up until then a dismal weekend as a whole for the seven-time world champion.

He finished Friday practice low on the timing screens after a failed set-up experiment, and then missed the final cut in qualifying for the first time in Melbourne since 2010. "Used to it now, getting knocked out of Q2," he sighed.

His attempts to recover on Sunday with a soft tyre start from P11 on the grid then ended prematurely with the PU issue leaving him stuck by the side of the track at turn 10 on lap 17, triggering a Virtual Safety Car.

Hamilton said that he had no warning of the impending problem with his engine. "It just went in one go,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t feel it coming.

"Definitely frustrating, because it was so early in the race," he continued. "It was open to be able to progress forwards and on a different strategy to everyone, but these things happen.”

Asked what lessons he could take from his brief outing on Sunday, Hamilton replied: "Nothing more than I’ve known before.

"We didn’t look terrible in the high-speed [corners] but we’re slow in the low-speed this weekend," he added when talking to the media in the paddock at Melbourne's Albert Part circuit.

"In the last race we were bad in the high-speed, good in the lower stuff," he added. "It was a real struggle this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 on the grid. 24.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Mercedes looked to be able to take solace from the performance of Hamilton's team mate George Russell, who was vying for sixth place with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso heading into the final lap.

But Russell crashed out at turn 6 and flipped his car into the barrier. It meant a pointless weekend for the Silver Arrows who have slipped to fifth place in the constructors standings behind Aston as a result.

Hamilton himself has just eight points from three races so far in 2024, which he is the first to admit "is the worst start to season I’ve ever had. Even worse than the last two. And it’s worse than 2009, I think.”

Despite the problems, Hamilton was surprisingly philosophical about the situation on Sunday. “I feel pretty good. I’m trying to keep things in perspective, you know. This could be so much worse!

“I’m really grateful. I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Australia, I’m still enjoying working with the team. Of course, I’d love to be fighting for wins and actually finishing races.

"It’s not great, I’m not happy, but I’m gonna have a great day tomorrow," he insisted. "But you get frustrated because you don’t have control

“It’s never a great feeling when you come all this way, and you don’t see even half of the race. But what I know is that we will bounce back, we will eventually get there, we just have to continue to chip away.

"It’s tough on the spirit,” he acknowledged. “I think it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and be focused on this one thing but the bigger picture is definitely the focus..

"For everyone in the team, when so much work is going on throughout the winter for everybody, you come in excited, motivated and driven, and then you’re with the mindset that you’re going to be fighting for wins.

“And then obviously that’s not the case. And then you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe second, third’. No, it’s not the case, and it cascades a bit further down. And you just go through the motions. It’s challenging.

“But I continue to be inspired by the people I’ve worked with. They continue to put in the effort and show up and that’s the most important thing.”

The next race on the calendar is the Japanese GP at Suzuka, a particular favourite of Hamilton's. But asked if Mercedes had anything in the pipeline to improve its fortunes, Hamilton's reply was bleak: “I don’t know."

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