Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has vowed to bounce back after a messy Qualifying session left him fourth on the grid for 2021 Russian Grand Prix.
Despite FP3 being cancelled due to torrential rainfall, Hamilton looked comfortable in the damp conditions as he topped Q1 and Q2 from Mercedes teammate – Valtteri Bottas, with the pair looking set for a front-row lockout after their opening Q3 runs.
Disaster however struck as Hamilton pitted for slick tyres with the seven-time world champion hitting the outside pit wall on entry, which caused damage to the front left of his Mercedes and forced a front wing change.
Explaining what happened in the pits, Hamilton said: “I made a mistake in the pit lane and I’m incredibly disappointed with that.
“Up until then, I was in the groove, I was in the zone and I am really sorry for all the team that are here and back at the factory because obviously that’s not what you expect from a champion.”
Hamilton then suffered a spin on his slick tyre flier at Turn 16 which left him fourth on the grid behind a retro-looking front three of McLaren, Ferrari and Williams cars, after Lando Norris took pole ahead of Carlos Sainz and George Russell.
Reflecting on the spin, Hamilton commented: “At the end, it was so slippery when you don’t have any temperature and without the time for that second push lap, we couldn’t set the time of the guys ahead.”
Hamilton though is now looking ahead to the race as he seeks “to try and rectify” his Qualifying blunders but admitted that he believes that Norris, Sainz and Russell “have got good pace” which won’t make his race easy if the damage can be fully repaired pre-race but says that “I’ll turn it into positive.”
Bottas meanwhile felt that he was better on the intermediate tyre and that he just couldn’t get the soft slick tyres to work across one lap, simply because he found it “too difficult to get the temperature” into his soft tyres as he landed seventh on the grid.
Reacting to his seventh place on the grid, Bottas said: ” It’s not great but nowhere near over yet, we have a strong car and I’ve had strong pace all weekend. At least I’m not starting from the back like in Monza so hopefully we’ll be better and I can push on from P7.”
“just really unfortunate”
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff felt that the poor Q3 results for Hamilton and Bottas were “just really unfortunate”, due to heading out first on track because it meant that they had to either abandon their last two fliers on the intermediate tyres in order to do a two-lap soft tyre run.
Wolff went on to reveal that in hindsight, he would of held both drivers back a minute before sending them out if he was “into crystal ball reading.”
Reflecting on the final runs, Wolff felt confident that even without Hamilton’s incident, both drivers “wouldn’t have been able to do two laps on the Soft and it was definitely a lap two tyre today.”
Bemusing what could of happened if they have had that second lap, Wolff added: “With the second lap, I’m sure we would have been fast enough for the front row but with one lap, you have no chance of heating the tyre enough.”
The win though is the main aim for both drivers tomorrow (26 September) with Wolff iterating that the biggest lesson from this mess is how they react in the race.