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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Hamilton: Mercedes has “cracked something” with F1 qualifying struggles

Lewis Hamilton hopeful of progress in understanding why Mercedes has lacked qualifying pace in Formula 1 this year

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton thinks he and Mercedes have finally “cracked something” with his Formula 1 qualifying struggles, off the back of an encouraging step at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The seven-time champion has been chasing answers for much of the year about why, despite often being quick in practice, the pace of the Mercedes has fallen away relative to the others in qualifying as his W15 proves nervous on the edge. And he in particular has had more difficulties in dealing with it than team-mate George Russell.

But following clear signs of overall progress with the car, Hamilton thinks the team has narrowed down the issues at the heart of it. And rather than it being a quirk of the W15 platform that is triggering what is happening in qualifying, he thinks the crux of the matter is down to tyres.

Reflecting on how far down the road he was in understanding the issue after qualifying third in Spain, Hamilton expressed some optimism about where things were at.

“There has been a huge amount of analysis, and requests of a lot of information from the team, on how we can improve where we are lacking,” he said ahead of the Austrian GP.

“It is simply with tyres, and so just continuing to improve on our processes from session to session.

“Typically, once we get to qualifying, things do change a little bit. The car is obviously lighter, you are in the DRS a lot more. Time will tell. But I think we cracked something. Now to try and build on it.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Hamilton suggested that as well as Mercedes needing to address the aero balance compromises of the current generation of cars, that tyre preparation ahead of qualifying laps was an area that needed to be nailed.

“The car aerodynamically, is more on a knife edge,” he said. “It's not as easy to balance with the mechanical side and the aero balance from high to low speed. Getting that configuration is difficult.

“But tyre temp and also then how you do your out-laps is key, which every single team is trying to sort.

"Just look at the Ferraris in Montreal, who didn't get out of Q2 for example. That could only be tyre temperature, as they have got a quick car and they won the race before that. So it just shows that it's easy to not have the tyres working. It's easy to overwork the tyres.

“They're definitely more sensitive, I think, than any other season that I remember being in.”

Off the back of his first race podium finish of the season in Spain, Hamilton said that a good result – and some close battles – had been much needed after what has been a fairly challenging campaign so far.

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“It feels good to have races like that,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t get to have a race like that – where you get to get your elbows out and have some really fun and challenging overtakes. But that was a really good, fun one for me.

“Barcelona always puts up a good race and it’s been a strong one for me for many years. We all need good days like that in our lives, just to remind us that it’s still there and just the fire is definitely there. [We] just need to continue to supply it and keep in blazing.”

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