Lewis Hamilton had to accept the next setback in qualifying from Saudi Arabia. The seven-time world champion only qualified in eighth place, while Mercedes team-mate George Russell was almost four-tenths of a second faster in fourth. This was partly due to a different set-up between the two pilots. Meanwhile, the Brit commented on the ongoing rumors about a possible departure from Mercedes.

    “Of course George did a great job. That was a great result for him,” praises Hamilton, adding: “He was just able to drive the car very differently than me.”

    Hamilton himself had problems getting the performance out of the car. “It’s mostly me, but my set-up makes the car a bit unstable in fast corners,” he explains.

    The set-up of him and teammate Russell differs “a little bit”, he says, without being specific: “There is one specific thing that I did differently, but maybe it will fit tomorrow, at least I hope so .”

    Mercedes’ senior race engineer Andrew Shovlin also speaks of a “consistently difficult qualifying” for Hamilton, in which he “struggled with balance and grip in the first sector”. “He had a very solid morning so it was a bit of a surprise but hopefully we’ll see some strong pace tomorrow,” said Shovlin.

    Hamilton lacks confidence in the car

    And although Jeddah brought the next unsatisfactory result, Hamilton denies that Jeddah frustrates him even more: “No, not really. The car is what it is and George did a great job. I’m happy that he’s up there is in the second row.”

    “So the car has performance, but I just don’t feel connected to the car,” he argues. “No matter what I do and what I change, I just don’t get any confidence in it. I’m just a bit lost.”

    “I just couldn’t get out of the car today, but I’ll keep trying.”

    It was only on Friday that Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff announced that he “couldn’t be angry” if Hamilton wanted to explore other options after two difficult years and leave the team. But the Brit himself emphasizes when asked: “That’s not my focus.”

    Hamilton makes it clear: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

    “I mean, I love this team, I’m so grateful for everyone who’s been along the road with me on this team. I can’t imagine being anywhere else and I can’t imagine quitting, I don’t feel like one quitters.”

    “But I wouldn’t say it gives me much,” he admits. “But I’m trying to be patient and work with the team. That’s all I can say for now. I’m not going anywhere.”

    First of all, the race on Sunday has priority in the minds of Mercedes. The team hopes to make up ground tomorrow and get a better result again. According to Shovlin, the fact that Hamilton and Russell are quite a bit apart gives Mercedes at least the opportunity to try different strategies.

    “Hopefully we’re a bit more tire-friendly than in Bahrain,” he says. “We’ve tried to work on the set-up to achieve that and we’ll find out tomorrow if we’ve made any progress.”