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Hamilton ‘so happy’ after claiming P2 amid ‘tricky conditions’ of Sprint Qualifying in China

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during Sprint Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton was thrilled to navigate the challenging conditions during Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix en route to P2 on the grid, with the Mercedes driver initially claiming pole before losing out to Lando Norris.

As the rain began to fall at the Shanghai International Circuit during SQ2, the drivers were faced with an increasingly slippery surface during the final SQ3 segment. Hamilton was amongst those to keep his car on track and looked to have set the fastest time as the session entered into final moments.

READ MORE: Norris claims pole ahead of Hamilton during frenetic wet Sprint Qualifying in China

However, a previously deleted lap for Norris was then reinstated, handing pole to the McLaren man while Hamilton was pushed down to second place. Despite this, the seven-time world champion was pleased to capitalise on the wet weather in order to grab a better grid slot.

“It was very tricky – tricky conditions,” said Hamilton after the session. “Not a lot of grip, as you saw, for everyone. But yeah, [I’m] so happy.

“As soon as I saw the rain coming I was getting excited, because naturally in the dry conditions we’re not quick enough, so when the rain came then I kind of thought that I’d have a bit of a better opportunity, and then that’s when it kind of all came alive.”

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Hamilton will line up in P2 for Saturday's Sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix

In terms of what he can achieve in Saturday’s Sprint, Hamilton believes that – should there be a repeat of the weather seen in Sprint Qualifying – there could potentially be an opportunity.

“It really depends what the conditions will be,” he explained. “If it’s like that [today] then maybe we’ll have a chance of being somewhere up there. I think if it’s dry then naturally the Ferraris and the Red Bulls will come by, and maybe we can hold off some of the others.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix

It wasn’t such a good day for Hamilton’s team mate George Russell, who exited SQ2 in P11. The Briton had not set a lap during the earlier dry conditions of the segment, and was forced to abort his sole flying lap as the rain started to fall on track.

Reflecting on the conditions, Russell commented after jumping out of the car: “It wasn’t easy at all. That last basically one lap in Q2, we tried sending it as early as we could, and then obviously got stuck behind – 12 cars were ahead of us just sat in the pit lane, so [I] lost the tyre temperature.

“It was close, one more tenth and you’re four or five positions higher. Obviously just a shame to be on the bottom end of that, but it’s Sprint Qualifying and [we’ve] got a chance to recover in the Sprint race.”

Russell left frustrated after coming ‘so close’ to SQ3

Asked if his heart had sunk at seeing the showers arrive just as he embarked on his lap, the 26-year-old responded: “I wouldn’t say it sunk, just a little bit frustrated after the first lap. It was so close getting into Q3, and just challenging conditions. Obviously the rain [is] falling down now, who knows what could have happened in Q3.

“As I said, you’ve got the Sprint race tomorrow, you can recover some positions, and then [we’ve] got another chance in qualifying tomorrow afternoon.”

READ MORE: F2 racer Antonelli ‘excited for what’s coming’ after making ‘incredible’ F1 test debut with Mercedes

In terms of how the W15 had felt and whether the package could perform well if they get things right, Russell added: “The grip’s really low here compared to what we were expecting for everybody. I think the lap times [were] probably three or four seconds slower than anticipated.

“There’s no other junior series here like F2 or F3 to help rubber the track in, so for everyone you’re slipping and sliding around. We’ve only done practice on the hard tyre, obviously just two laps in qualifying on the medium tyre.

“It’s really quite challenging to judge but, as I said, we’ve got another chance tomorrow. Maybe [we’ll] make some tweaks overnight and go from there.”

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