Transcript: How Hamilton’s deficit to Russell was “all in the first sector”

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton admitted after qualifying he didn’t have as much confidence in his car as his team mate, who will start four places ahead of him on the grid for today’s race.

George Russell produced a best lap of 1’28.857, almost four-tenths of a second faster than his team mate. The pair were closer at the beginning of the session, but as the track conditions improved Hamilton wasn’t able to find as much time as his team mate.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton hasn’t felt fully at one with the W14 so far. “They’re both different drivers,” he explained, “they need a car with a certain behaviour in order to drive fast.

“Lewis, at no time [has] his car given him this season any feedback that allows him to push to the limits. And if you haven’t got that car underneath you, in sector one you’re never able to push fast through the corners and this is what we’ve seen.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Hamilton can’t push the W14 to its limit, admits Wolff
There was almost nothing to choose between Hamilton and Russell in the second and third sectors of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit – a matter of a few hundredths of a second either way. But through the tight chicane of turns one and two, and the 10 quick corners that follow, Hamilton lost 0.285 seconds.

“It’s all in sector one,” said Wolff. “George just drives around that and is able to have more confidence in the car in sector one. It’s something that we know is up to us to give them both a better car in order to storm ahead.”

While the W14 lacks the outright speed to compete with the likes of Red Bull, in Jeddah Hamilton wasn’t able to get as much out of it as his team mate. “At the moment it definitely feels like I just couldn’t get any more out of the car today,” he admitted.

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Hamilton’s qualifying radio messages


Hamilton was less than two-tenths of a second behind Russell after their first runs in Q1:

Bonnington So there’s a tenth in turns eight, nine 10 and half a tenth 16, 17.
Hamilton What position are we?
Bonnington So currently P6. We were three degrees shy on target temp.

While Max Verstappen set a pace no one could match, Hamilton’s second run brought him within a tenth of his team mate:

Bonnington So P5. It’s nine-tenths to Verstappen P1. Got George in P4, just nine-hundredths ahead. Eight, nine 10 looks at least an improvement, it’s just 16 and 17.

Hamilton began a final lap but immediately backed out of it after catching traffic at turn one.

Hamilton Are we safe, or not?
Bonnington We’ll go for the lap anyway, we’ll go for the lap anyway.
Hamilton Are we okay?
Bonnington Affirm, yep, P10 at the moment.

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The Mercedes drivers ran used tyres at the beginning of Q2. Hamilton’s first run was six-thousandths of a second slower than he managed before, while Russell shaved eight hundredths off his time.

Bonnington So currently P6, nine-tenths to Alonso. Alonso was on a new tyre.

After switching to new rubber for his final run, Hamilton asked for his front wing to be turned up to take full advantage of the extra grip. He improved his time, but Russell lowered his best further, increasing the gap between them to almost a quarter of a second.

Bonnington Targetting plus five on your dash.
Hamilton Did you put one hole in?
Bonnington We will do, front wing plus one.
Bonnington Okay Lewis, so we’ll take a cool-down, get that pack up.
Bonnington So currently P6 at the moment, six tenths to Alonso. In terms of sectors it’s four tenths sector one and then two-and-a-half tenths in the middle. You are up in the final, just two hundredths.
Hamilton How big was the gap to the car ahead? It felt like it was too big.
Bonnington Copy, yeah, we were about 6.3 seconds.
Hamilton So losses to George, looks like he’s managing to carry more speed, mid-speed at turn two.

Both drivers did another lap on the same set of tyres but neither improved, Hamilton seven-hundredths slower.

Hamilton We’re going again, right?
Bonnington Affirm, going again. A little bit of time to be found in eight, nine and 10.
Bonnington Okay so box box.
Hamilton Sorry guys, didn’t improve.
Bonnington Don’t mind, there are a couple of bits there that we’ve tidied up.
Hamilton Are we okay?
Bonnington Copy, P6 at the moment, just dropped to P7. Yeah so looks like we are safe.
Bonnington So we’ll stop you on the marks and roll back into the garage.
Hamilton I’m going to hop out.
Bonnington Affirm.

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Hamilton’s first lap of Q3 was his quickest, a 1’29.223, but Russell set a 1’28.872.

Hamilton Is there anyone ahead?
Bonnington Let’s just focus on those casing of temps.
Hamilton Gap behind?
Bonnington Nine seconds.
Bonnington Box. Box.
Bonnington In terms of sectors to Leclerc it’s two-tenths sector one, a tenth and a half in the middle, tenth in the final. To George we’re losing two and a half tenths in the first sector. So it’s a tenth turn one-two, a tenth and a half in eight, nine and 10.
Hamilton Are we boxing or are we going again?
Bonnington Box, box.
Bonnington So we’ll stop you short.

While Russell made a fractional improvement to a 1’28.857, Hamilton failed to improve on his final lap, and his time was deleted for crossing the painted area between the pit lane and the track

Hamilton Were the tyre temps good at the start of the lap?
Bonnington We were happy with those, it looked good to us.
Bonnington Okay Lewis that’s P8, that’s nine tenths to Perez.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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