Hamilton has no explanation for qualifying pace loss

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton was explain his relative lack of pace to Max Verstappen in qualifying for the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton looked the favourite heading into the session, having had a smoother run through practice with a seemingly well-balanced car.

However, the seven-time world champion will line up second for Sunday’s race after being unable to match his title-rival’s one-lap speed on Saturday evening.

“The car was good, Max did a great job on that final lap,” Hamilton said.

“Generally, through practice, in P3 at least, and in qualifying the car was feeling solid.

“Through qualifying it felt like it got a bit harder to try and gain speed.

“The last two laps weren’t easy to really pull out the time in the end,” he added.

“I don’t know if it’s track temp or what… The last lap was okay, definitely can’t complain, but of course we wish we’d be a bit quicker today.”

Hamilton progressed to the final phase of qualifying on a set of medium compound tyres, while Verstappen bolted on a set of softs.

The pair will therefore head into Sunday’s race on different strategies from the outset.

“It’s interesting,” Hamilton noted of Verstappen’s soft tyre choice.

The Dutchman claimed he’d hoped to start on the mediums, but a lock up during Qualifying 2 saw him flat spot the set used to set his best time.

Without another fresh set at his disposal, Verstappen switched to the soft compound rubber to complete the segment and ensure he didn’t start the race on the compromised tyre set.

It’s a move Hamilton is dubious of, intimating it was a ploy on his championship rival’s part to mislead Mercedes.

“I’m always kind of sceptical with everything so it’d be interesting when we go back and look at the information and on-board laps,” the Mercedes driver said.

“It’s very rare that people lock up into Turn 1.

“If he truly did lock up in Turn 1 then then maybe, whether or not we’re in a better position in terms of that tyre, or maybe they know something we don’t and that soft tire is was their plan all the time…

“We struggled, I think, a little more on the soft tyre,” he added.

“I think for a long run we’ve got the right tyre, but we’ll see tomorrow.”

Tied on points with Verstappen, at its simplest, whichever driver finishes ahead in Sunday’s race will win the world championship.

“I’m happy that I’m on the front row [and] I can see my opponent,” Hamilton said.

“Obviously it’s going to be a little bit harder off the start with the medium tyre as opposed to the soft tyre, but nonetheless, I’ll be giving it everything.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets underway at midnight AEDT.

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