Lewis Hamilton delivered a brutally honest assessment of his season so far after finishing behind George Russell in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. Positivity appeared to be creeping back into the Mercedes camp as new upgrades kept their porpoising issues under wraps, but despite a promising chat with team boss Toto Wolff, Hamilton remains frustrated that he cannot rediscover his mojo.
When Russell joined up with Mercedes for the new season, Hamilton was expected to lead the way much as he did alongside Valtteri Bottas for five straight seasons. But the youngster has stepped up to the plate spectacularly, and leads the multiple world champ by 23 points.
The current gulf between the pair was on display again on Saturday, when Russell qualified fourth at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and Hamilton took sixth. Afterwards, Wolff claimed that the latter had delivered positive feedback on the car which was cause for celebration in the garage, but Hamilton’s own rundown presented an altogether darker picture.
“I’m really struggling with the car this year,” he said, per BBC Sport. “The car has potential to be third or fourth and I am not able to pull that out of the car. I just don’t feel that great in the sense of my driving and I’m working as hard as I can.
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“I am still way off. I just struggle with confidence in the rear of the car. I don’t know how to get around that. I don’t know what I am going to do but I will keep trying to work hard and trying to figure it out. I just have no rear end in the car in the qualifying sessions.”
The brutally honest assessment was startling from the F1 veteran, and the one many consider to be the greatest of all time. Having ground to make up could yet light a fire under Hamilton, however, after flirting with retirement during the off-season.
Now would be an ideal time for the 37-year-old to start piecing things together given that Mercedes seem to have narrowed the gap between themselves, Ferrari and Red Bull. Earlier this month, Russell suggested that his fast start could be due to recent experience in a tricky car at Williams, but things may swing back in Hamilton’s favour now that porpoising appears to be under control.
Championships look to be out of the question as Ferrari and Red Bull break away. Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen will share the front row on Sunday after an action-packed Q3 in Spain, but Hamilton still heaped praise on Mercedes’ behind-the-scenes work.
“The team have done a great job so a big, big thank you to everyone for keeping pushing back at the factory,” he told Sky Sports.
“We don’t have bouncing in a straight line which is a huge improvement for us and the car has generally been nicer this weekend.”