Lewis Hamilton expects the 2023 Las Vegas GP to be a chaotic race with tyre management a key component for anyone with aspirations on the top five or podium – an area where the Mercedes driver usually excels.
Hamilton qualified eleventh at less than three-hundredths away from the top 10, but admitted on his in-lap that he couldn’t have gone any faster as he struggled with the Mercedes W14 around The Strip Circuit.
Hamilton‘s Mercedes teammate George Russell didn’t encounter the same problems though, ending the day just 0.008s behind Max Verstappen and a front-row start in a race that’s expected to be one of attrition.
“It’s fun, I’m sliding round a lot but tomorrow’s gonna be really interesting,” Hamilton told the media. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We’re all on low wing so there’s going to be a lot of deg. There may be more deg than we know, no one’s driven the hard tyre yet. It’s going to be a long race, it’s going to be about managing the degradation.
“It’s going to be super-tough, the short run down to turn one and I’m in the thick of it so not the best place to be.”
While Hamilton would’ve hoped for better in qualifying, a chaotic session saw lots of big-name eliminations meaning just two drivers from the championship top six start in the top ten in Las Vegas.
“I just struggled, lacking confidence and grip,” Hamilton added. “Yesterday I was feeling better and I was more competitive and then made some changes overnight that don’t feel great today.”
Hamilton on Sainz penalty: These things happen
Hamilton arrived in Las Vegas needing to beat Sergio Perez by at least seven points to keep the battle for second in the drivers’ championship alive.
However, he’s been helped by Carlos Sainz‘s ten-place grid penalty, as the Spaniard would’ve started second but instead drops behind Hamilton.
Sainz ran over a loose manhole cover in FP1 that damaged his Ferrari and forced him to take an extra engine component, meaning the stewards couldn’t waive the grid penalty even though they wanted to.
Many in the F1 paddock thought it was harsh given it was a track failure that caused the damage, but Mercedes hinted they would’ve protested had Sainz avoided punishment.
“These things happen, the track shouldn’t have had that fault but it did,” Hamilton said before addressing the success of the Las Vegas GP for the sport as a whole.
“It’s been good for Formula 1. It’s been tough for a lot of teams, everyone’s just taken it on the chin, kept their heads up and worked really hard – I’m proud of my team doing everything that we’re doing.”