Lewis Hamilton insisted that he was ‘grateful’ after beating George Russell and qualifying in sixth place ahead of Sunday’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix. The 37-year-old managed to outperform his Mercedes team-mate, who was knocked out in Q2, to secure an impressive result given his early-season woes and the Silver Arrows’ lack of pace when compared to their Constructors’ Championship rivals.
Hamilton came close to being eliminated in Q1 but was able to avoid finishing in the bottom five before going on to qualify behind only the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers and former team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the end of Q3. The 37-year-old later admitted that he was relieved to have secured a top-six grid position before insisting that Mercedes will eventually iron out their performance issues if they keep working hard to improve their results over the coming weeks.
“It was a much, much better qualifying session than I’ve had for the last three races, so I’m grateful for that to be honest and I’ll take it,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “We’ll keep on chipping away, keep working at it. So much amazing work is going on in the background and everyone is working so hard. Unfortunately I don’t think we are necessarily moving forwards at the rate we would like to.
“That gap [to Red Bull and Ferrari] is similar to the beginning of the year, I think. We have just got to keep our heads down, keep working, keep focused and keep trundling. Eventually we will get there. “It’s difficult to say [how the race will go]. It’s not felt generally better this weekend, but today once I got the tyres in a better place it was feeling a little better in qualifying. For race pace? I have no idea.”
Mercedes looked surprisingly quick in FP2 on Friday, with Russell topping the timesheets and Hamilton ending up with the fourth-quickest lap overall, but the German outfit were unable to stay at the very front of the pecking order over the course of Saturday’s qualifying session. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went on to echo Hamilton’s view on their on-track performance by underlining his desire to keep working in order to gain a better understanding of the limitations of their current package.
“We have seen a performing car yesterday in FP2 that was real,” said Wolff. “We were able to put it in a sweet spot and today in FP3 we were completely off with the experiments we did. “It creeped a little bit off but it was still bouncing like a kangaroo, the drivers are not happy with it and you can see that is the reason we are off. We definitely have a better handling on what works and the slump today from yesterday helped.
“It is never one thing that is responsible for performance and non-performance but we had a good car yesterday afternoon, then we worsened it. Some things we understand, others not.”