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Hamilton describes ‘one of my worst sessions’ in Australian GP practice as Mercedes admit set-up test ‘massively backfired’

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes prepares to drive in

Lewis Hamilton offered a frank assessment after he placed only 18th on the timesheets during second practice for the Australian Grand Prix, admitting he is “the least confident” he has felt at the wheel of the W15 so far.

Hamilton entered the Melbourne weekend talking up the potential of Mercedes’ latest challenger as the Brackley outfit look to put two challenging seasons behind them and edge closer to world champions Red Bull.

FP2: Leclerc sets the pace during second practice in Australia from Verstappen and Sainz

However, after a solid run to ninth in FP1, a series of set-up experiments saw Hamilton tumble down the order in FP2, placing ahead of only Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and the sidelined Williams of Alex Albon.

Reflecting on his day, and particularly that second outing, Hamilton said: “I obviously don’t feel great. We had one of the worst sessions I’ve probably had for a long time.

“P1 generally felt quite good; the car actually in P1, run one, felt the best it’s ever felt, then it just got worse and worse. I made some changes, big changes into… well, we made some big changes into P2, and it was tough.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Hamilton was more than a second-and-a-half off the pace set by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in FP2

Asked if there are any elements that give him some encouragement for the weekend ahead, he added: “After that session I feel the least confident I’ve ever felt with this car, but there are positives from that P1 run that we did.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed the extent of the set-up changes on Hamilton’s car between sessions and admitted their pre-planned experiments had not gone as desired.

WATCH: Albon brings out the red flags after heavy crash during FP1 as he sits out FP2 in Australia

“We’ve achieved the experiment, but we haven’t unlocked performance,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “I think in the second session we’ve gone through a really quite dramatic set-up change on Lewis and that has massively backfired. But this is why we’re having those sessions.”

With Mercedes yet to nail F1’s latest ground effect ruleset, and having scored just one victory across the two seasons they have been in play, Wolff admitted the situation is a frustrating one for all involved at the Silver Arrows.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 07: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff looks on in the Paddock

Wolff highlighted “a really quite dramatic set-up change” on Hamilton’s car for FP2

“If I would say that I’m not frustrated it would be not the truth – certainly we are,” he commented. “We’re trying so much in all directions but don’t seem to have found that silver bullet yet which helps us to get us in the right direction.

“We’ve got to keep trying. We’ve seen performance in this car before and I just don’t want to go back and say we’re just not good in these regulations because we have everything we need in order to get on top of that and we will.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from second practice for the Australian Grand Prix

George Russell enjoyed a smoother day in the sister Mercedes as he placed third in FP1 and sixth in FP2, feeling that there was more on the table in the second session after a mistake during his soft-tyre run.

“On my very last lap I was I think two- or three-tenths up,” he said. “I came out of Turn 12 and I damaged my front wing, and I went off the track in the last two corners… I didn’t go off but I lost loads of lap time there.

“I think we’d have been probably P3 in that session, but we’ve always had quite strong FP1 and FP2 showings, and it’s very difficult with this C5 tyre, the soft tyre – there’s so much potential there but it’s difficult to really get that sweet spot.”

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