Lewis Hamilton upbeat after Mercedes disaster in Chinese GP qualifying: Sh*t happens

The Mercedes driver hadn't been knocked out of Q1 for eight years before his wretched performance in Shanghai

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Lewis Hamilton admits his changes made to his car prior to qualifying for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix were to blame for his latest dismal session in the Mercedes, despite finishing second in the F1 Sprint hours before.

The 39-year-old will start Sunday’s race from 18th on the grid – his worst starting position since 2016 when he was 22nd on the grid for this race. But on this occasion, Hamilton couldn’t blame an engine penalty for starting so far down the grid after a poor qualifying performance.

Hamilton had left it late to start his second run in qualifying and that looked to be a shrewd decision as the track ramped up. But the Silver Arrows driver locked up his brakes into the hairpin and it cost him dearly, with the likes of Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo leapfrogging Hamilton to make it into Q2.

Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, practice | Mercedes / Sam Bloxham
Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, practice | Mercedes / Sam Bloxham

Hamilton later revealed it was his changes to the setup from Saturday’s Sprint race, which saw him finish second behind Max Verstappen, that resulted in him struggling for pace.

“I couldn’t make it around [Turn] 14. I lost it at 14. There’s a tailwind there but I just seemed to have [no grip]. I don’t blame anything on the team. It wasn’t one of my best qualifying laps,” Hamilton told select members of the media, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“Basically we made massive changes going into qualifying. We wanted to experiment. George [Russell] decided to go one way, much different to what we had because we both had pretty much the same before. I went this other direction just to see if we could find something. It didn’t feel terrible but I just couldn’t stop the car at 14.”

Hamilton pays the price

It was made worse by the fact Hamilton‘s team-mate Russell had the pace to make it into the top 10 in Q3, with the 26-year-old set to start eighth on the grid – the fourth time in five races he has outqualified Hamilton.

He has only 17 points from his first four races – with seven of those coming in the sprint race in China – and even a points finish appears to be a tall order for a driver who has racked up 103 career race victories.

But the veteran racer is determined to enjoy himself as he prepares for a long afternoon in Shanghai.

“I’m very strong mentally. It’s not great, it’s not a mindf*** at all,” Hamilton added. “S*** happens you know, sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong.

“This car is on a knife edge as you know so it can easily do what we had. But I’ll have some fun with it.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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