Lewis Hamilton frustrated after George Russell beats him in qualifying

Lewis Hamilton left frustrated after being outperformed by Mercedes team-mate George Russell in qualifying again, admitting ‘I don’t know what I am going to do’

  • Lewis Hamilton was beaten by his team-mate George Russell in qualifying
  • The seven-time champion is frustrated that he is regularly losing to Russell
  • He has admitted that he is still struggling to get to grips with his car this season
  • Hamilton has admitted he does not know how he is going to get back on track 

George Russell is the best performing Mercedes driver of the moment. Don’t take my word for it. Take a baffled Lewis Hamilton’s.

The 24-year-old Russell underlined the fact with a fine qualifying performance under a scorching Spanish sun, two places and one-tenth of a second ahead of the seven-time world champion.

Neither was within six-tenths of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, but both were happier with their machinery following major upgrades intended to remedy the bouncing phenomenon that has made driving their car akin to riding a bucking bronco. The surgery partly worked, as Russell underlined by registering the fourth fastest time of the afternoon.

Lewis Hamilton was beaten by George Russell in qualifying again on Saturday

Hamilton could only finish sixth in qualifying, two places behind his team-mate

Hamilton has regularly finished behind Russell in the early stages of the season

Hamilton, so often a one-lap master, cut a slightly disconsolate figure in his post-session interviews. The 37-year-old struck both defiant and despairing notes, saying: ‘My team-mate is fourth so that means I should be at least third or fourth, and I am sixth. I am still struggling with the car and qualifying wasn’t great for me. I don’t know how to get around that. I don’t know what I am going to do, but I will just continue to work hard and try to figure it out.’

Asked if the upgrades put him back in the championship mix, Hamilton said: ‘I am not really putting my mind to that because I am still way off.’

That is undeniable. He is 68 points behind leader Leclerc, and, perhaps even more painfully, 23 adrift of Russell. Of the changes to the car — a revised floor and new front wing — Hamilton was still cautiously optimistic.

‘We still had some bouncing on Turn 3 and Turn 9 so we still have some improvements to make but it’s a step forward,’ he said. ‘We now have a better idea of the direction we need to go and we are just waiting for the engineers and the aerodynamicists to come through with some more bits for us to progress.’

Hamilton is still hoping to turn things around after a difficult start to the season

Russell is playing both a short, medium and long game. Short: expressing reverence for his senior partner at every utterance. Medium: showing his pace and consistency from the start. Long: taking over, he hopes, as de facto No 1 — a process that may not be completed until Hamilton takes leave of the grid for ever. He is level 3-3 in qualifying results with his team-mate, and 4-1 ahead in grands prix. He also bettered him in the one sprint. 

It should be noted in Hamilton’s defence that he has endured moments of ill-luck when safety cars favoured Russell in Melbourne and Miami. Russell, who predicted a chaotic race, was keen to dodge pesky internal comparisons, saying: ‘I just focus on myself and try to do the best job possible and where that leaves me I’ll review from there.

‘Obviously I believe in myself but I don’t feel as if I’m truly optimising the package, and, compared to Lewis, I’ve got room to improve in a number of aspects. I guess it gives me excitement to see what I can deliver a little later on in the season.’

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified second best after complaining of losing power at the 11th hour. Carlos Sainz of Ferrari was third.

George Russell is excited for the future after beating his team-mate again in qualifying

Leclerc will have to be on his guard at the start of Sunday’s race given that Verstappen has done brilliantly to win the last two rounds and stands 19 points behind the Monegasque on whom fortune has smiled more broadly so far.

There was disappointment for the home crowd when Alpine’s Fernando Alonso exited in Q1. The double world champion was delayed behind McLaren’s Lando Norris and failed to cross the line in time to put in another flying lap. He is condemned to start 17th. Norris, who had his lap time deleted in Q2 for exceeding track limits, qualified 11th.

Both Aston Martins bombed out in Q1, despite accusations from Red Bull they had copied their car through possibly illegal possession of their intellectual property. If so, they could try copying harder.

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