Hamilton win hope after unexpected Australian GP qualifying
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 1st April, 2023 - 6:45pm
Lewis Hamilton believes there is now “a glimpse of hope” Mercedes can push for wins this F1 season following what was a “totally unexpected” qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix.
So far this season, Mercedes has constantly bemoaned its W14, to such an extent it is bringing a raft of upgrades and a likely change of philosophy from mid-May at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola.
At Melbourne’s Albert Park, however, George Russell and Hamilton offered a clear suggestion the current car is not as bad as has been made out as the duo qualified second and third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Russell, in particular, finished only a quarter of a second behind the reigning F1 champion, with Hamilton a further 0.136s off the pace.
“This is totally unexpected,” said a beaming Hamilton. “To be this close to the Red Bull is honestly incredible, and I hope tomorrow we can give them a bit of a run for their money.
“This gives everyone in the team a boost, a glimpse of hope, and will spur everyone on and will inspire everyone to continue to push.
“We know that if we can just bring a little bit of performance, we can close the gap to the front. Whilst the gap looks small, there are still going to be places where the gap is a lot bigger.
“If we can stay consistent, we’ve got great reliability, and if we can continue to apply the pressure to bag those points then maybe when the car is right, maybe we can start fighting for wins. That’d be incredible.”
Hamilton banking on strategy to push Verstappen
At one stage in the final section of qualifying, Hamilton was top of the timesheet, and for a moment it appeared as if a record ninth pole position at a single circuit was on the cards.
Verstappen, though, quickly extinguished that possibility, with Hamilton unable to get his tyres in the right window on his second run, allowing Russell to also leapfrog him.
Hamilton conceded it was “very surreal” to see himself at the top briefly, but with he and Russell directly behind Verstappen, and with Sergio Perez at the back of the grid after a brake issue that forced him into the gravel, strategy could play a part in the race.
“We have to expect they’re going to be quarter a second, half a second at least, quicker than us,” said Hamilton.
“But maybe in the tow, maybe we can just about hold on. Maybe the fact that there are two of us and only one Red Bull, maybe with strategy we can apply some pressure on them.
“It feels amazing to be up here alongside Max and I really hope tomorrow we can somehow hold on to him.
“He might pull away into the distance, as he has done in the past, but we will give it our best shot.”
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