Hamilton rues ‘pretty terrible’ qualifying in Las Vegas as he explains reason for being ‘caught out’ in Q2 exit
Lewis Hamilton was left to rue a “terrible” session after being eliminated in Q2 of qualifying at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, leaving the Mercedes driver down in P11.
It proved to be a challenging outing for Hamilton at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, with the seven-time world champion pushed into the drop zone as others improved on their final laps in Q2. He subsequently reported over team radio that he “couldn't go faster”.
Meanwhile the likes of Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas and the Williams duo of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant all progressed into the top-10 shootout.
Speaking to the media after the session, Hamilton was asked how his qualifying had gone, to which he responded: “Pretty terrible, but it is what it is. It’s impressive to see the Williams so high up. I just didn’t have any grip out there. I don’t think the tyres were working the whole session. Not ideal, it’s been a problem I’ve had for a long time.”
In terms of his prospects for the race – in which he looks set to start from P10 on the grid, due to Carlos Sainz taking a 10-place penalty – Hamilton voiced his hopes of seeing an improvement.
“We started the weekend with a lot of degradation, as a lot of people did, a lot of graining, so it’ll be really interesting to see… I made some changes to the car, and I’m hoping that it works in the races,” he explained.
“I don’t really feel it rubbering in much – there is track progression naturally, it’s getting faster and faster, but not at a crazy steep rate. But that’s really what caught me out at the end, so I wasn’t able to go quicker but other people did go quicker at the end, so it’s just the way it is.”
It was a better day for Hamilton’s team mate George Russell, who – after earlier topping the timesheets in Free Practice 3 – ended qualifying in P4. The Briton’s time was just under one hundredth of a second away from Max Verstappen in third, though he too will move up a position owing to Sainz’s penalty.
“Definitely very satisfied with qualifying,” Russell said after the session. “I was always up there, the Ferraris were a step ahead of everybody today, but P4 I think was pretty well maximised. Close to P3 with Max, but starting third tomorrow which is a great place to start.”
With Charles Leclerc sealing a strong pole position, Russell is expecting a good showing from Ferrari in Saturday night’s race.
“It’s going to be very tricky,” he reflected. “A lot of [tyre] graining for all teams. Max has kept two hards and two mediums, I think, because nobody knows how it’s going to pan out.
“We had some very difficult long runs, in all honesty, and Ferrari truly look a step ahead of the field, both in quali and in race pace, so I expect Charles to breeze along tomorrow. We’ll do our best to give him a fight, but we’re – right now – still lacking a little bit of understanding how to get on top of these tyres.”