P5 for Lewis Hamilton at the end of a “ very difficult” qualifying in Austria

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Photo credits: Mercedes AMGF1

Quite a challenging Friday qualifying for Mercedes in Spielberg, as George Russell was eliminated in Q2 and Lewis Hamilton only managed to find a spot in third row.

A P5 that puts the seven-time world champion behind both Ferraris and Lando Norris’ McLaren, who secured P4 with a remarkable lap.

“I think our race pace was probably around the third fastest, the Red Bulls and the Ferraris are quicker, maybe the Astons too,” commented Hamilton at the end of Q3.

“Today was a very difficult session. Not an easy circuit. Our car in general in the past has never really suited this circuit and it shows that again today.”

As Shovlin explained the Mercedes was just lacking the high speed grip that would have allowed a better performance on Friday.

Instead it took two sets of new Softs for the 1.04.819s lap that put Hamilton in P5.

“We’re not going to have damage limitation because we haven’t even qualified for it yet,” he clarified. “We’re just going to try and see if we can do better in sprint qualifying tomorrow.”

“It depends on the weather and the temperatures. Then from fifth in the race on Sunday, that’s a good strong position to start from,” he concluded.

Even more troubling were things for his teammate George Russell, who will be starting Sunday’s race in P11, after getting kicked out in Q2 for only 0.041s.

Not enough confidence in the rear of his W14 to make it through what was a rather tight qualifying session in Austria. A feeling that the Brit had since the very first runs in FP1.

“We were just not quick enough today, from the first laps in practice. I think from the first laps in practice I just hadn’t got the right feel with the car,” he commented at the end of qualifying.

“It’s difficult when you go into a Sprint race weekend you don’t have a lot of time to make some changes. Let’s see what we can do tonight into tomorrow.”

Not the best place to start, out of the top 10, but Russell seems hopeful to be able to extract a better performance on Sunday.

“Obviously P11 is not the best starting position, but we have had some good results from further down the field so far this year, so all is not lost.”

Nonetheless things appear quite challenging for the actual race as well.

“The tyre degradation looked pretty bad in practice, so probably looking at a two-stop race.”

“But yeah, we need to understand what’s going on at the moment. We’re struggling a bit, especially on Saturdays.”

Struggles that Mercedes was not expecting to encounter, as Team Principal Toto Wolff explained.

“I think we came with expectations that we would be fighting for P2 – P3 with the Ferraris or the Aston Martins and we underperformed. But racing is only on Sunday, so we’ll see.”

“The time gaps are not huge, we’re talking two tenths up and down. It makes a big difference of three tenths.”

An “overall underwhelming” qualifying that leaves Mercedes in hopes to take a huge step forward with the upgrades package that is set to debut next race, on home soil for both drivers.

“We are bringing something to Silverstone and it looks like – hopefully – it will have an impact like it had on the McLarens and the Ferraris today.”