Red Bull and Ferrari 'in a completely different league' says Hamilton after frustrating Baku qualifying
Lewis Hamilton had previously never qualified lower than second for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – but after taking seventh on the grid on Saturday, the seven-time champion couldn’t help but look longingly up the order.
Hamilton qualified P7 to team mate George Russell’s P5 while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position, with no other team but Red Bull able to get within a second of the Monegasque driver. As a result, the Briton gave a stark assessment of his team’s standing at Baku.
“We’re not even racing those guys at the front, they’re in a completely different league,” said Hamilton. “So, it seems that these guys are miles ahead, and then there is this pack that we’re in. I don’t think [today was] damage limitation. I guess you could say that George is pole and I’m third and that’s the real race.”
As for Russell, the 24-year-old could well continue his top-five finishing streak from 2022 on Sunday, and called his qualifying performance a consolation on a tough day for the Silver Arrows.
“They’re not easy beasts to control. We are doing everything we can to gain more information and to take some steps forward, but it’s seemingly a little more difficult at the moment than we would’ve liked. But we’re working as hard as we can to get on top of this and find more performance.
“So, talking about today, P5, that’s the maximum, so it’s a silver lining.”
As for Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, the Austrian admitted that looking at the data after qualifying had made for painful reading.
“I think the position was to expect third quickest on the road,” said Wolff, whose two drivers were split by the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. “So in terms of position [it’s as expected] but the gap is big. The gap is big, it’s a long lap time and we’re lacking pretty much everywhere, so I wish I don’t need to look at those kind of [data] overlays in the future anymore.”