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Hamilton rues ‘disaster’ qualifying in Abu Dhabi after Q2 exit while Russell confident of podium fight

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: 11th placed qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great

Lewis Hamilton labelled his qualifying session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a “disaster” after failing to make it out of Q2, leaving the Mercedes driver to start the race down in P11.

It proved to be a challenging evening for Hamilton at the Yas Marina Circuit, with the seven-time world champion appearing to struggle with the W14 throughout. After just putting himself into the top-10 during the initial runs in Q2, improvements from drivers including team mate George Russell on the second outings pushed Hamilton into the drop zone.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc to Abu Dhabi GP pole as Hamilton and Sainz endure early exits

Upon learning of his exit from the session, Hamilton was heard to report over team radio that “there’s something not right with this car”.

When asked after qualifying to describe exactly what this issue feels like, the 38-year-old explained: “It’s just very loose. This car’s unpredictable at every corner – in one corner it’s one way, in another corner it’s another. It’s not a consistent car.

‘The car’s unpredictable at every corner’ – Hamilton on battling his Mercedes in Abu Dhabi

“Poor balance, and no set-up change I can make seems to get it right. It’s a struggle just to get out of Q1.”

The result marks a second consecutive Q2 elimination for Hamilton, who suffered the same fate last time out in Las Vegas. Pushed on whether this has proven to be one of the most challenging periods of his extensive career – in terms of feeling that there is a problem with the car but not yet finding a solution – he responded: “Yeah, I mean these last two races have been a disaster for me, particularly in qualifying – I’ve had two 11th places. It’s very rare but, yeah, it’s the last race.”

READ MORE: Horner details contact with Hamilton’s dad but denies ‘serious discussion’ over Red Bull move

It was a better day on the other side of the Mercedes garage for Russell, who has so far enjoyed a solid weekend in Abu Dhabi after topping two out of three practice sessions. The Briton secured P4 on the grid for Sunday’s race and spoke positively about his experience behind the wheel after the session.

“I feel good in the car. The last couple of races I’ve felt really strong, really comfortable and just in a nice groove, to be honest,” said Russell. “Mixed feelings because we were so strong this morning in the hotter conditions and the track got a lot cooler this evening, which means the track always goes a lot faster.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63)

Russell secured P4 on the grid in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

“We took all the fuel out of the car, as everybody does for qualifying, and we only made a small jump from the lap time in FP3 to the lap time in qualifying, so sort of mixed feelings, but I would have taken P4 ahead of the weekend.”

While cooler conditions are expected for the Grand Prix, Mercedes traditionally perform better on race day than during qualifying. With this in mind, Russell is “100 percent” confident that he can be in the fight for a podium, a result that would benefit the team as they look to hold off Ferrari for P2 in the constructors’ championship.

READ MORE: FP3: Russell leads Norris as Verstappen struggles during final Abu Dhabi GP practice

“We haven’t had many [podiums] this year, so I want to end this season on a high,” Russell concluded. “Of course we’ve got the fight with Ferrari, but we won’t even be thinking about that.

“We’ll just treat it like any other race, and if you go out to achieve the best result possible, we’ll achieve the P2 in the championship too. That’s the goal, that’s the objective – a good night’s sleep and go again.”

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