A lot of frustration at Mercedes after the Saudi qualification

After the Jeddah qualifying there is frustration at Mercedes! Lewis Hamilton finished qualifying in eighth place, immediately behind his teammate George Russell. The 26-year-old missed out on a better result because he made a big mistake on his second lap. “P2 or P3 would have been possible,” believes team boss Toto Wolff.

“I think in the end we understood what we had to do, but always a little too late,” the Mercedes team boss also touched on his own nose. The Austrian is aware that the W15 is not easy to drive on the street circuit in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton in particular has problems. “He may have a lap where the car gives a little more grip, where he feels comfortable, but overall it’s not smooth,” Wolff told Sky. “He wasn’t completely happy last year either.”

While hardly anything more was possible for the record world champion, Russell’s mistake is particularly bitter. “That’s just annoying,” said the Mercedes team boss, bemused. “I was as annoyed as in the good old days when you can be in front, or second and third, and you throw it away.” At the time of departure, Russell was already “two tenths faster,” said Wolff.

Russell: “P4 was the true potential”

“Yes, that was annoying,” says Russell, disappointed. “My first lap with the used tire was really good. I felt really strong this weekend.” However, with the fresh tires, the Mercedes driver made the annoying mistake – but he sees his chances differently than the team boss: “I think P4 was the car’s true potential today.”

“But we are still trying to find the right point, we saw that in the second training session in Bahrain when we were in first and second place. Yesterday we were really strong,” recalls Russell of Thursday, when the Mercedes drivers ended up in second and fourth place. “Today we took a step back and I think we did the same thing in Bahrain.”

“So we have to try to find out the reasons for this and improve the coordination,” hopes the Briton. However, the team didn’t make any major changes to the car overnight, which is why Russell pinpoints the problems elsewhere: “I think the track is evolving, you’re going through the corners faster, the car is getting closer to the ground and the bouncing is taking off probably too.”

“I couldn’t drive at high speeds without touching the ground,” reports the Mercedes driver, who also sees this as the reason for taking off: “I turned in, the car hit the ground and I took off, because I went through the corner maybe 10 km/h faster than I ever did before this weekend. Maybe we need to think a little bit more forward.”

“We’re just learning about the car, and maybe we just need to find a better compromise.” Mercedes is looking for downforce. “But maybe the downforce isn’t worth the losses that bouncing brings with it,” ponders the Brit.

Hamilton: New front wing is not successful

“It wasn’t a really good qualifying,” admits Hamilton, who had problems the day before and therefore switched to a larger front wing. “In Q3 I was really much happier with the car, but I lost two tenths on the straight.”

“I found some stability back and was much happier,” reports the seven-time world champion. “I thought I would take that into qualifying. But unfortunately the bouncing is still there. That makes it very difficult to maintain that in a session. That’s why we were so slow in this sector.”

“The car is really so much better than last year, in every area,” believes Hamilton. “It’s just that it’s really causing us a lot of trouble.” The Mercedes is fast in the second and third sectors, but there are still problems in the first sector. “It’s the same as last year.”

Russell is confident about the race

At least: Mercedes is not having to struggle with cooling problems in Saudi Arabia, like the ones in Bahrain a week ago. “We found the problem. It was a very simple problem,” reveals the 26-year-old. “It was a simple solution, but we are still trying to figure out why the problem in Bahrain was so severe.”

That’s another reason why Russell is confident for the race: “Our race speed looks strong,” says the Brit happily. “The only challenge here in Jeddah is that it is not an easy route for overtaking. Even if you have the DRS zones.”

Added to this is the fact that Dirty Air appears to be having a greater impact this year than last year. It will therefore be more difficult for the pilots to drive behind each other. “With the simple one-stop race, you don’t see much tire delta between the drivers,” says Russell, citing another difficulty.

“I’m confident that we’ll be faster than McLaren and Aston [Martin] will be. We have really good speed on the straights, something we haven’t maintained for two years. But I don’t think it will be easy moving forward.”

Hamilton: “We’re not fighting for victory”

“I think tomorrow is just about staying cool. And I’ll try to have fun,” smiles Hamilton. “It is what it is, but we’re not fighting for the top or for the win. So I’ll try to get as many points as possible tomorrow.”

Will the Mercedes driver take more risks at the start in order to make up positions? “I don’t want to lose any team points. So I’ll see,” Hamilton remains reserved. “But if there is a gap, then I will use it.”

Mercedes team boss Wolff also has hope: “I think we have a good racing car, so let’s see what can happen tomorrow. It would have been better to start at the front, but it is what it is.”