Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2022

Hamilton doubts Mercedes can overturn nine-tenths deficit in race

2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton does not think Mercedes will be able to fight for victory in the Japanese Grand Prix even if the rain returns tomorrow.

The Mercedes driver will start the Suzuka race from sixth on the grid after his best Q3 time was nearly a full second slower than Max Verstappen’s pole-winning lap. Mercedes team mate George Russell will start behind him in eighth, with the pair split by Fernando Alonso’s Alpine.

Many teams expect tomorrow’s race will be affected by rain during at least part of the 53-lap event. Hamilton said Mercedes had opted for a higher-downforce set up on their car, which was 10kph slower in the speed trap in Q3 compared to the pole-winner.

“We were losing a lot of time on the straights,” Hamilton told Sky. “But the car was feeling really good else throughout the rest of the lap. So it was fun.

“My laps were generally good. I didn’t have any problems otherwise. I think we’re losing something like five or six tenths just on the straights. Otherwise we kind of anticipated it going in, we have a bigger wing than the other guys. That’s about it.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
Asked how far up the order he expects Mercedes to be able to fight during the race, Hamilton admitted that “it depends on the conditions that we have.”

“If it rains, I think we didn’t have too bad yesterday in the wet conditions,” he continued. “I think either way we should be a little bit closer than we were today. Just hoping for a better race result than we had [today].”

Even if the conditions on Sunday end up playing into Mercedes’ hands, Hamilton doubts that they will be able to challenge for the race victory.

“That’s a real reach to try and say that we can get a win,” he said. “Those guys are nine-tenths ahead so you don’t go from being nine-tenths behind in qualifying to winning a race.”

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2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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10 comments on “Hamilton doubts Mercedes can overturn nine-tenths deficit in race”

  1. They keep stubbornly using the “parachute” rear wing. I think they believe they can abuse the tyres less.

    1. That’s how they were scoring podiums early on in the year, outperforming the raw pace of the car. Running longer gives more strategic options.
      Will especially help if the small chance of rain materialises.
      We’ll see.

  2. Why do you call it a parachute rear wing? I’ve not heard it called that before. Is it a phrase you came up with, or is it more widely used?

  3. Maybe you cannot, maybe an average driver could

    1. Well, in this case it seems clearly not a driver problem: hamilton outperformed bottas by far and even if I don’t consider him anywhere near the goat he’s at least a top driver, given what he’s done over the years, example matching alonso in his first season, and russell is also a highly rated driver, the fact both are around 1 sec behind (was 1,6 in the early q3 run even) shows the car is lacking.

  4. Might as well have an article for “Alonso doesnt think he’ll fight for wins tomorrow”.

  5. There are quite a few references to how abrasive the track surface is, even in the wet.
    Points to a tyre management exercise for race day, wet or dry. Should be loads of fun.

  6. Wet or dry, the Mercedes should be quick enough to pass the Alpines and finish 5th and 6th. With enough rain, better results are even imaginable.

  7. Russell was also 8 tenths off in Zandvoort qualifying – a much shorter lap. Granted, Hamilton was quite a bit closer to pole. But if Mercedes can work their tyre management magic here, there’s no reason they can’t be in contention for a podium spot.

  8. With a good steady rain, Mercedes has intentionally put itself into a very strong position, to win this one. my 2 cents

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