Hamilton wrestles ‘viper’ Mercedes back into contention
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and sixth in Albert Park qualifying despite lack of Mercedes upgrades and “spiteful” car; Charles Leclerc on pole ahead of Max Verstappen; watch Sunday’s race live at 6am on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 09/04/22 11:11am
Lewis Hamilton hailed fifth place in Australian GP qualifying as a positive step for Mercedes and their W13 car, which he compared to a “viper” and a “rattlesnake” with its “spiteful” streak.
After scoring just a single point in Saudi Arabia and struggling in practice to start the Melbourne weekend, Hamilton and Mercedes were in desperate need of an improved qualifying – and they managed to rise up the order.
While a second off Charles Leclerc’s pole time, Hamilton placed fifth and just ahead of George Russell, with the Mercedes drivers to line up on the third row on the grid for Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 6am.
“Compared to yesterday and the last race [it’s a big win],” Hamilton told Sky F1. “It is nice to be back up there.”
Hamilton called Jeddah – where he qualified 16th and finished the race 10th – “really, really tough” before a “difficult” start to the Australian GP weekend as both he and Russell slipped out of the top 10 in Friday practice.
“We had a bigger deficit and everyone back at the factory was working hard to try and figure out where we can go with the set-up and I feel we have extracted the most from the car today,” he explained.
His 1:18.825 in Q3 came despite the heavy bouncing of his car, which Mercedes are yet to tame.
“I feel like my lap, I feel like there was a little more in the car so that is a positive,” added Hamilton
“I am also naturally gutted that I wasn’t able to extract that little bit but the problem is when you push that car a little bit more she is quite spiteful, she is like a viper or like a rattlesnake, you never know.”
Mercedes did not bring upgrades to Australia as they are yet to solve their porpoising issues, with Ferrari and Red Bull clearly the fastest cars again this weekend – while McLaren also edged ahead of the Silver Arrows on Saturday.
“Basically we just have to try and find a level of the bouncing, as hardcore as we can go without rattling our brains out,” said Hamilton.
“That is what we tried to do. George and I have slightly different cars because we are trying out different things.
“I have something in my car that makes it a little heavier but hopefully it will enable the team to gain more information for the race tomorrow so hopefully off that we can make some progress.”
Australian GP, Provisional Grid
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) George Russell, Mercedes
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Estaban Ocon, Alpine
9) Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari
10) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
11) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
12) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
13) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
14) Zhou Guanyu, Alfo Romeo
15) Mick Schumacher, Haas
16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
17) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
18) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
19) Alexander Albon, Williams*
20) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin*
*three place grid penalties
Live Australian GP schedule on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event
Sunday, April 10
4.30am: Grand Prix Sunday: Australia
6am: THE AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
8am: Chequered Flag: Australia
9am: Ted’s Notebook
9.30am: Australian GP Replay