Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Hamilton at a loss to explain Red Bull’s ‘qualifying mode’

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t understand Red Bull’s apparent ability to produce extra performance when needed, comparing it to the “qualifying modes” which were banned last year.

Restrictions on engine mode changes came into force at the Belgian Grand Prix last year. The settings previously gave drivers an effective boost of power when needed for flying laps in qualifying.

Red Bull and Mercedes are more evenly matched this year than last season. Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole last weekend by almost a quarter of a second around one of the shortest circuits on the calendar.

Mercedes was fastest in Austrian Grand Prix practice at the Red Bull Ring today, but pace-setter Hamilton is wary of the threat from Red Bull. “They’ve definitely got some extra in their bag,” he said, “I already know that.

“We’ve made some small progress today but I think they still have the two tenths. Or maybe it’s a tenth and a half, something like that. We’ve definitely made some small steps forward, but not enough to close that – it’s not the two tenths.”

While Hamilton’s car “felt pretty good” over a single lap, he expects his rivals “to turn up a little bit more” in qualifying.

Guanyu Zhou, Alpine, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Gallery: 2021 Austrian Grand Prix practice in pictures
“They’ve almost basically got like the qualifying mode that we used to have. I asked my guys, I don’t understand where they get it from, but it’s impressive. And we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match somehow.”

Due to the high loads tyres are put under around the undulating Red Bull Ring, qualifying pace can bear little relation to who can be quickest over a race distance and look after their tyres. But Hamilton expects whatever advantage Red Bull may have on Saturday will be repeated in the grand prix.

“I’m pretty sure it stays the same. Whatever gap they’re going to have tomorrow is usually the gap they seem to have on a Sunday. But we’ll be pushing, trying to make that gap as small as possible tomorrow. And if we can improve the car all of tonight, then great.”

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2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Ida Wood
    Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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    66 comments on “Hamilton at a loss to explain Red Bull’s ‘qualifying mode’”

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      2nd July 2021, 16:49

      And we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match somehow

      That’s the right ethic, good work. Now watch them try and ban something instead.

      1. If it is illegal, they obviously should act on it. It’s childish to think they shouldn’t so not to look as sore losers or something like that.

    2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      2nd July 2021, 16:52

      I’m getting quite tired of these copy-paste Hamilton complains that are baseless. Everyone that has followed F1 for more than a month knows that Hammie is full of it. Why keep giving him attention this way?

      1. and why/how would Hamilton know and understand/explain about performance of a Red Bull racing car? He’s not an Engineer … he’s JUST a driver. Put him in a Haas …

      2. Where has he “complained” exactly? He says “…but its impressive. And we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match somehow.”
        Depends on your perspective I guess. If you dislike Lewis you’ll find fault in everything he says and does. If your a fan you’ll see everything as a positive. If you’re a neutral you’ll take what he says at face value.

        1. It’s like when a Brit says “that’s interesting!”, it’s oftentimes not what the words are saying ;)

          Most people will understand this though, similar to when they use ‘Honda PU’ and ‘upgrade’ in one sentence.

          1. Yes, you should ignore what he says and come up with your own version that suits your agenda. Throw in a ‘in other words’ , ‘what he really means is ‘, ‘reading between the lines’ or some such and then attributed it to him before getting angry about it. Works a treat

            1. I didn’t didn’t ‘throw in other words’.
              But glad that you were still able to ‘read between the lines’.

              I guess this time it suited your narrative :P

        2. Lewis is insinuating illegal behavior. He’s a shrewd man. It’s a similar tactic to Toto’s “compliments” of Honda’s -would be- illegal engine upgrades a couple races back. Honestly the article would be more comprehensive if it helped the reader know what the implications of a special qualifying mode would be.

      3. Then stay away. Simple.
        No one really cares whether you’re getting tired or not. And those interviewing Lewis will definitely not stop doing it just because of a nobody on an internet forum.

        1. No one really cares whether you’re getting tired or not.

          And yet still people care enough to reply :P

          1. Yes – because I’m equally a nobody :-)

      4. Why give him attention? Because those who have a problem with him saturate the forums no matter what he says, as we see with headlines that don’t match the story, quotes taken out of context, or just plain made up garbage. Your Ham rants amongst the many others are good for business. That’s why other drivers are asked did they have a good game of golf and what’s their favourite ice-cream (no one cares or listens) and Hamilton is asked what’s the world coming to and when are you going to solve it’s problems,

    3. Ah, illegal qualification modes. A new arrow in the Mercedes arsenal.
      Come on… just talk on track and stop these disgusting insinuations.

      1. Stateside Fan
        3rd July 2021, 7:21

        Hamilton also said that the Q time advantage stayed consistent into the race, so he seemed to be arguing against himself, by way of fairness.

    4. Imagine the other nine teams complainig like Ham and Merc every single race for the last seven years

      1. In what regard did Hamilton lodge a complaint or whine about anything? He’s noticed RBR are faster lately, on straights, at certain times. Which is consistent with what was just reported here—they have improved their engines. But I guess keeping him on blast makes people feel better about themselves?

      2. I know. Imagine Horner being so desperate to be on tv he allows cameras on the RB prat perch every race so he can spend seven years whinging about the Merc party mode and the extra two tenths they get come qualifying.

      3. F1oSaurus (@)
        3rd July 2021, 12:38

        You mean like Horner has been doing since 2005? Even when they won multiple championships in a row he kept crying foul.

    5. I’ve long been a supporter of Lewis. But lately, he seems to whine a lot.

      1. The question is if he complained as much even in the vettel era, cause if so (wasn’t following those years) it’d match the fact there’s competition, albeit in that case there was a consistently stronger car.

      2. He’s always been a bit of a whiner, but lately he’s taken it to another level. Nearly every race weekend it’s a different accusation, it’s quite sad to see.

        1. Yusha (@freebird78)
          3rd July 2021, 7:38

          He did not accuse RB of anything illegal or otherwise. You have a vivid imagination.

      3. Yusha (@freebird78)
        3rd July 2021, 7:37

        Whining? Where is the whining? He was asked a question by someone and he answered it.

        In case you did not read the article, here is what he said “They’ve almost basically got like the qualifying mode that we used to have. I asked my guys, I don’t understand where they get it from, but it’s impressive. And we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match somehow.”

        How is this a whine or a moan?

        1. @freebird78 That quote to me is the particularly funny one. Lol ‘almost basically got like…’ I don’t think he is whining nor complaining, just looking for sympathy and trying to cast a shadow of doubt on RBR akin to their legal wings, their legal tire pressures, their legal pu ‘upgrade.’ Just more of the same from LH now with a ‘mode that we used to have.’ Lol.

      4. F1oSaurus (@)
        3rd July 2021, 12:39

        He points out that they have quite a margin in qualifying. That’s it. Verstappen has been doing the same since he joined F1.

        In fact even this year Verstappen keeps pretending that Mercedes have an edge over his car.

        1. @f1osaurus
          Perez vs Bottas

          Bottas leads qualifying 5-3
          Bottas leads race finishes 4-2

          Keep deluding yourself. Unfortunately for you, the real world is opening their eyes and beginning to realize that Verstappen is just plain better than Hamilton.

    6. Pathetic. Every race the same story, like f1 is a sports that was made only for Hamilton. There are other people and teams that they want also to win. Enough is enough as Gunther said. Your personality is not on par with your driving talent.

      1. Does he remember using party mode for years btw?

      2. And who are you again ? The media asks, they answer. It’s how it works, you know.

        1. And who are you, to ask me who i am. The media asks, they answer, and we comment on what they answer. It’s how it works, you know.

          1. So if the media ask the same question every week, why are you surprised when they get the same answer?

    7. Gets Popcorn, waits for the salt…

    8. Is it just me or is “Sir” hamilton turning into a salty old whiner now that his car isnt in a league of its own, showing that it wasnt the driver all along

    9. Yep I agree with this – maybe it’s a quote out of context but he seemed incredulous in the last race that another car was quicker.

    10. Styrian Grand Prix: Red Bull beats Mercs handily by 15 seconds.
      At Austrian Grand Prix: Lewis says RB’s are faster and have an impressive pace. Merc needs to see if they can match it somehow.
      All the comments so far: Lewis, you whiner! Just stop talking!!
      Me: Puzzled expression

      1. Me: Puzzled expression

        Same here mate.

        1. Same same. The amount of Hamilton hate lately is astonishing..

      2. Hamilton’s use of a ‘description’ being precisely something that was banned (and is thus illegal) is not unintended, and it fits the pattern of Hamilton and Wolff making various insinuations or even claims that Red Bull is, to some degree, cheating. Flexing wings, tyre pressures, in-season engine development, now quali-modes.

        1. @CashnotClass Yes, it’s completely intended. Do you fancy trying to explain, without mentioning something that was banned, how Red Bull have managed to emulate that very thing that was banned?

          1. @minnis There are many settings on the cars that can all or individually be run at less than their maximum performance in the practice sessions. As Hamilton knows, the ban on ‘party modes’ requires teams to use a single mode during the qualifying and race only. Red Bull will know what they change after practice going into qualifying (and the race), people just watching won’t.

      3. It’s remarkable on this site now the number of posters below articles who seem unable to comprehend that the comments from Hamilton that they construe as ‘whining’ are because the media are asking direct questions on the very topic of relative performance. I remain baffled by this lack of comprehension!

        1. Tell me about it.

          What is wrong with these people?

          The guy points out the Honda is quicker… after losing a race or four to it…

          Shocked, I am shocked, what’s the man with 100 poles and 98 wins thinking!!

        2. I remain baffled by this lack of comprehension!

          It’s not that hard to understand, really. Whatever the media asks you, you are responsible for whatever you reply. If you are accusing your rivals of cheating, saying “The press asked me” is no excuse. You can reply whatever you think you should, or nothing at all.

    11. Mercedes and Hamilton knows alot about party mode since they’ve used it for years so if they’re abit suspicious about RB ability to turn up their engines for qualifying there might be something to this also don’t dimiss the abitlity of honda and rb to use software to bypass the fia protocols in regards to this.

      1. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
        This story might not be over yet……like Ferarri

    12. So he’s again accusing Honda of cheating. Yet another lie from him.

      1. Hmmm I missed that bit accusing Honda of cheating.
        Lewis is asked questions by avid sports journalists. He answers them as honestly as he can within reasonable constraints. Ends.

        Get a grip.

        1. He is insinuating it. Not hard to work out. Toto too, when they are pressed on it they backtrack. They literally have been saying honda PU+ UPGRADE for weeks now when they know it’s not allowed.

        2. That is kinda how insinuations work, right?

        3. @gmacz

          Qualifying modes are now illegal and Lewis is insinuating that Red Bull still use them.

          1. From what I recall, the FIA banned the use of multiple engine modes.
            Fair enough, but there is nothing to stop any team using whatever power unit mode the want, it is just limited that they can not change it. In that sense, Hamilton is wrong, there is nothing to stop Honda / Red Bull using a Max mode (yes, pun intended) for qualification and the race. Just that they can not change it in the normal way. Maybe just stick a wedge under the loud pedal.

      2. @balue he can’t help himself.

    13. Merc are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at RedBull, to see if something sticks. First, the bendy wing, then the PU upgrade and now the qualy party mode… If we’re lucky, by the end of the season we might get some oil burning or even blown diffuser accusations to finish the Bingo game.

    14. This has become more than embarrassing.

    15. You’ve gotta know that Lewis and probably Toto are saying secretly to themselves “Don’t don’t they all UNDERSTAND? We are the ones who are SUPPOSED to win?!”

    16. I hope it’s not a cheat that ends up in a row and ban and all sorts of mess. I hope it’s genuine. I also hope the Mercs will find the 2 tenths on the next track. I like this battle a lot and want it to continue. I have to say, I do have to laugh at Mercedes this season. At. They are going full whine on RBR. And yes that is funny after ALL THOSE YEARS hearing Toto/Hamilton go “gee, I don’t know but the Ferrari/Red Bull seem to be all over us, they might be ahead” only for them to pull a gap of at least half a second, many times more even, come Q3. I also believe Marko and Horner are worthy of being on the receiving end of all the verbal bile. I’ll just enjoy my popcorn, bile-free

    17. Idea for you mate, drive a bit faster in the corners and you’ll have a better chance of beating them.

      1. Should learn to do it first and is a bit too old for that

        1. Exactly, plus he should concentrate on dominating his very average teammate when in reality he’s barely faster than over one lap.

    18. At a loss to explain mercs 7 year dominance. They must have cheated, take the titles away.

      What a weak competitor, whine factory Merc-Toto-Hamilton is turning out to be. Maybe they should just compete and race. Didn’t they say they wanted close competition???

      1. According to Paddy Lowe they actually hid their true engine performance advantage for years so as not to get penalised because they were so far ahead. This gave them an advantage for years and was a big part of the reason why they always found a big chunk of time come qualifying. Hamilton is throwing these accusations out, because this is what his own team would do if they still had a massive advantage.

    19. Carlos Furtado das Neves
      2nd July 2021, 23:30

      Of course it’s impressive.
      Red Bull’s engeniers are working properly.
      Now, all the teams must work to discover the “magic tricks” they are using.
      That’s how it works…

    20. Go get yourself a Chinese gravel trap and stay there til the Morlocks come for you

    21. Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t understand Red Bull’s apparent ability to produce extra performance when needed

      Haha accusations flying left right and centre the politics of Motor Racing hasn’t changed in over 100 years. People getting upset by things being said should remember that the success of F1 has lead to it being put under a magnifying glass. None of this is new it’s just that now it’s reported.

    22. Where is Lewis whining as some have claimed. He has observed redbulls together with the data they get that redbull seems to have an extra boost of performance come qualifying etc. He is juat stating the facts as per his and mercs opinion. Mercs had qualy modes until it was banned due to complants (horner/redbull) that is was an unfair advantage. I dont see Lewis whining just answering questions as best he can. It sounds more like the fans are the children on this site who choose to pick on what Lewis is saying and on the other fans instead of sticking to the facts or being objective. Whining and childish…

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