“As you start to push the car, it doesn’t like it” — Hamilton says the W15 becomes edgy when they go to the limit following P3 in F1 Spanish GP qualifying

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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After a difficult start to the season, Mercedes has improved its car performance since Miami by introducing several upgrades. The Spanish Grand Prix showcased the team’s progress, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell securing the second row in qualifying, despite being three-tenths slower than Max Verstappen and polesitter Lando Norris.

This result is promising for Mercedes, confirming that their car can perform well on various circuits.

Hamilton praised the team’s efforts after the session, expressing his gratitude and satisfaction.

“I’m really happy.

“So, so happy to be here and super grateful to be up in the top three. It’s been quite a difficult year, a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factory and finally we’re starting to see those incremental steps moving closer to the guys ahead.

“I didn’t expect us to be fighting for pole necessarily but every now and then it looked like there were bits there and [that] maybe we’ll be close, and to be there I’m just grateful.”

Hamilton continued, highlighting the work the team has done to turn things around following a difficult start to the season where they languished around 6th to 8th.

A pole and podium for Russell, plus a P4 for Hamilton in Canada showed progress, and they continued to show it on Saturday.

“Yeah, we’ve made huge steps forwards. And it’s really just down to every single individual back at the factory who’s pushing in design, pushing in making the new parts that we get to bring as early as possible to these races.

“And slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine that we can hopefully fight the guys at the front. George did a great job as well today. Hopefully tomorrow we can apply pressure on the two cars ahead.

“You’ve seen over the last couple of races that we’re slowly climbing closer to the guys up front. I think there’s a little bit more performance in the car today, but it’s really on the knife-edge.

“We’ve got some improvements to make to the car. As I said, I’m really happy to be P3, it is a pretty good spot to be in for the start with that long straight down to Turn 1.”

Despite the progress, Hamilton acknowledged that Mercedes still lags behind Red Bull and McLaren.

The seven-time World Champion says more updates will be needed for them to start fighting for poles and wins every weekend.

“Three-tenths off. It’s a pretty big chunk. For a track like this, it’s not too bad. I think, through the lap, there’s a little bit of time. It probably could have been two tenths, but still they have a slight advantage.

“But for us to be that close on the track like this is a real good showing that we’re going in the right direction. We’ve got some improvements that we need to bring over the next few races in order for us to be properly in range of those guys.”

Reflecting on his qualifying performance that saw him get into the top 3 for the first time in Grand Prix qualifying this season, Hamilton discussed the challenges he faced, particularly with tyre performance and how the car becomes trickier to drive the closer he goes to the limit.

“I still feel like I lost performance going into [qualifying]. But just as you start to push the car, it doesn’t like it.

“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.

“You saw in Q1, 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, as I said, it’s good that we’re up here and it’s the best qualifying I’ve had this year, I’m really grateful for it.”

Looking ahead at tomorrow’s race, the 39-year-old was not very confident about challenging Norris and Verstappen, expecting to look in the mirror for the Ferraris instead.

Good tyre degradation will be the key to a strong race.

“I think it would be very difficult. These two will be very quick, but position is everything.

“Also, there’s two of us, hopefully we can apply pressure as a team to both of the cars ahead in order to maybe play out something in strategy and slowly climb up. It’s all about degradation tomorrow and how you look after the tyres, so we won’t know until we get into that first run.

‘The bigger concern probably is the Ferraris behind us. Obviously, we were all within half a tenth.

“And they had an upgrade this weekend, so I think their long pace look quite strong. It’s more working together as a team and trying to hold position at least. If we happen to have more pace available to us and we’re able to hold on to these guys, then it’s game on.

“But we really won’t know until tomorrow. And degradation is always the key here. And when you have a really good rear end, you can save your balance, but you can save the rear tyres. So that’s going to be key for tomorrow.”