After qualifying in a lowly P4 for the Chinese Grand Prix, leaving Sebastian Vettel to take a stunning pole position, Lewis Hamilton has conceded that victory in tomorrow’s race will be unlikely.
Talking to media directly after the session, Hamilton said that the Ferrari’s “are too fast on the straight.”
“I don’t know if we can challenge,” he admitted, “they’ll [Ferrari] do the same tomorrow.”
Hamilton’s quickest time in qualifying only booked him fourth on the grid, with both Ferrari’s and team mate Valtteri Bottas starting in the top three slots.
In the end, Sebastian Vettel’s pole lap was 0.580s quicker than Hamilton’s best effort, which was just five-hundreths behind his team mate’s best time.
Valtteri Bottas said post-qualifying that he was also “surprised” by the immense pace of the Ferrari’s, adding “they were quicker than we expected”.
Vettel’s pole marks the first time in the last six runnings of the Chinese Grand Prix that a Mercedes driver will not start from P1.
Questions have now been asked about why Mercedes were so much slower than Ferrari in qualifying.
Sky Sports F1’s post-qualifying coverage went to former Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg, for the answer. But, Rosberg was just as shocked by the result, saying, “I don’t think Mercedes themselves know [what is wrong.]”
Fellow Sky Sports F1 pundit, Martin Brundle, wasn’t convinced the poor qualifying was completely to do with the car. Instead, he suggested that Hamilton wasn’t operating at 100% capacity.
“I don’t think I’ve seen Lewis Hamilton make so many mistakes,” Brundle said.
Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, Toto Wolff, confirmed to Sky Sports F1 that the main issue for Mercedes seemed to be related to tyre temperatures.
It’s widely understood that Pirelli’s optimum operating window for their tyres is a threshold of about 5 to 10 degrees, a fact Guenther Steiner eluded to in Sky Sports F1’s pre-qualifying coverage.
Valtteri Bottas admitted this too, telling media that himself and the team still have “work to do to get everything out of the tyres.”
When asked if the Mercedes could challenge Ferrari in tomorrow’s Grand Prix, especially considering finer conditions are forecast, Bottas shared Hamilton’s lack of enthusiasm.
“It’s a question mark,” he said.
The Chinese Grand Prix kicks of at 2:10pm local time in Shanghai, China.