After a tricky first two practice sessions in the upgraded W14, Lewis Hamilton admitted he faces a battle to make it into Q3 during qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix.
Mercedes debuted their highly anticipated upgrade packed in Monaco last week, enjoying an initial upturn in form, but both cars struggled around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which offers a more accurate reflection on performance.
In FP1, Hamilton could only manage 12th, finishing more than a second off the pace of Verstappen, while he only improved to 11th in FP2, sparking understandable concerns ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.
“I think from the pace I had today it’s a struggle for me personally to get into top 10,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s very close between us and from P5 back to P10, it’s really, really close between us all.
“It’s impressive to see the improvements everyone seems to have made all around us. You look at Ocon, the Alpines are doing great.
“The Aston Martins are second just right behind the Red Bull, which is really impressive, so it’s not going to be easy that’s for sure.”
Cause for optimism
Although the seven-time world champion endured a fairly disappointing day, he was able to take some positives.
The car might have felt “so different” to the one he took to fourth in Monaco, but the race pace in Barcelona offered a glimmer of hope for another strong result, while the threat of rain could also help Hamilton’s cause.
“We’re fighting as hard as we can,” Hamilton added. “I would say it’s a difficult FP1 and FP2 just getting on top of the tyres and the deg. The car feels like the car.
“It’s so different from last week obviously, but we’re just focusing. I think the long-run pace didn’t look terrible and we’ve just got to work on trying to figure out how to extract more out of a single lap.
“Wet weather can always be a helping hand given we’re not as quick as we’d like to be, but I’m just going to try and do the best job I can tonight to make the right set-up changes.
“There’s definitely improvements I know I can make with the set-up so I’ll get on top of that.”