Hamilton: Tricky Q3 conditions put Mercedes “a little bit further back” in F1 Brazil qualifying

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In a surprising turn of events at the Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying session, Mercedes found themselves grappling with an unexpected weather twist that caught them off guard.

Team principal Toto Wolff acknowledged that their tactical decisions were not “adaptive enough” to the rapidly changing conditions, leaving Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to secure the fifth and sixth positions on the starting grid for Sunday’s race. He reflected on the conditions by saying “I think you see how we’re in the marginal differences in terms of out-laps and temperatures,” admitting that they could have told the drivers to push harder.

As the dark clouds loomed overhead, the team quickly reacted to the threat of rain in the Q3 session by sending both drivers out for their laps early. This strategic move aimed to take advantage of the impending rain but did not pay off as anticipated.

Photo credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Before the Q3 session commenced, Hamilton and Russell found themselves lining up behind the Aston Martin drivers at the pit lane exit. As the session started, Max Verstappen swiftly overtook George Russell, positioning himself between the two Mercedes cars. As the rain intensified and the track conditions worsened, the Mercedes drivers failed to surpass both the Aston Martins, as well as Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who were running close behind.

“The Aston Martins just stormed away,” Toto Wolff said. “Max straight out of the garage with warm tyres also stormed away and that was the quickest cars. And we were a second off the previous time or eight tenths off and it shows you what you should have done.” he further explained.

Photo credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Hamilton stated that the change in conditions likely pushed them further down the grid than they expected. The British driver said, “The car was showing signs of decent performance, but we were generally a couple of tenths off the top guys. But I think the circumstances at the end, the conditions probably have us maybe a little bit further back – maybe, I don’t know.”

George Russell admitted that he considered aborting his lap due to the poor balance of his car. However, he persevered, and despite his initial disappointment with the lap, he ended up securing the sixth position on the grid.

Photo credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Russell described the challenging conditions, saying, “It’s absolutely crazy. I’ve never ever seen a change of weather so drastically as that. I was really disappointed with the lap.” He elaborated on the conditions by saying “On my lap I was just sliding around, I had no grip. I didn’t see that much rain on my visor, but I was a second off, and I actually wanted to pit because I was confident I was going to be last and ended up P6. So while it was disappointing and frustrating, P6 is definitely not a bad place to start.”