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Formula 1 Spanish GP

Hamilton: Mercedes still exposed by F1 qualifying weakness

Lewis Hamilton scored his best qualifying result of 2024 so far with third in Spain, but reckons Mercedes still needs to cure a key weakness only pushing at the limit exposes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes’ W15 2024 Formula 1 car has an inherent weakness on tyre performance that is only exposed when pushing at the limit in qualifying.

Hamilton qualified third on the grid for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona – his best result of the 2024 season so far.

The seven-time world champion had previously got no higher than seventh in non-sprint qualifying this term, with notable tumbles from strong practice showings to disappointing qualifying results in Bahrain and Canada.

After leading FP2 at Barcelona, Hamilton was unsure if Mercedes could “see if we can hold onto the Red Bulls and the Ferraris and McLarens” in qualifying.

In that session, he ultimately finished behind only McLaren pole-winner Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and ended up ahead of team-mate George Russell for the third time in their 2024 GP qualifying head-to-head.

When asked by Autosport what he felt had made the difference to avoid a practice-qualifying dip this time around, Hamilton said: “I still feel like I lost performance going into quali.

“It's all about perspective [though]. Maybe they just moved forwards, but I definitely feel like there was a little bit more [to extract].

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15, parks the car in Parc Ferme

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15, parks the car in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But just as you start to push the car, it doesn't like it. So, in practice, when you leave a little bit of margin, the car feels quite nice.

“But it's when you start to really lean on it to try and get that extra bit of lap time out where we really struggle. And I think it's all in the tyres.

“So, you saw in P1, I was seven tenths down due to an issue with the blankets. And then we got it sorted for the following sessions.

“It puts you a little bit on the back foot. But yeah, otherwise, the car, it's good that we're up here and it's the best qualifying I've had this year, so I'm really grateful for it.”

The tyre problem Hamilton refers to has been discussed internally at Mercedes, which has noted it arises when its drivers are really leaning on the rubber with deeper braking points when trying to find every available tenth in the final laps against the clock.

Hamilton also said while there was potentially “a little bit more performance in the car” in Barcelona qualifying, he felt it was “really on the knife edge” in terms of best handling around the tyre weakness.

“So, we've got some improvements to make to the car,” he added.

“But I'm really happy to be P3. It’s a pretty good spot to be in for the start with that long straight down to Turn 1 [for the race start behind the two drivers on the front row].”

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