Lewis Hamilton believes he will struggle to make the final qualifying session on Saturday after Mercedes lagged behind their rivals during free practice in Spain. The seven-time world champion is hoping to end the longest winning drought of his F1 career, and although the Silver Arrows recently introduced an upgrades package, it is yet to have the desired effect.
A P4 and P5 finish for Hamilton and team-mate George Russell in Monaco last weekend yielded valuable points on the board for Mercedes, but the team acknowledged that the tight, twisting street circuit was not the best environment in which to properly assess their upgrades package.
They certainly found out more after two practice sessions around Circuit de Catalunya this time out, but it was not good news for Hamilton and co. The 38-year-old could only muster up the 11th-fastest time in FP2, clocking in more than six-tenths behind the leader Max Verstappen.
Russell was marginally ahead in eighth, while Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and Alpine star Esteban Ocon each provided surprises by finishing in the top five, providing fresh concerns for Mercedes as they watch their rivals improve week on week.
When asked about the chances of putting in a positive qualifying performance on Saturday, Hamilton told reporters: “From the pace that I had today it will be a struggle to get into the top 10. It is not going to be easy, that is for sure.
“We are fighting as hard as we can. It was a difficult day getting on top of the tyres. The car feels… like the car. Hopefully we can make some changes overnight.
Hamilton left it late in Q1 last weekend, surging into the top 10 on his final qualifying lap of the session in Monaco. If the Brit’s fears are to be realised, he could be faced with a similar situation this Saturday.
The former McLaren hero, whose haul of 103 Grand Prix wins is unmatched by any F1 driver in the history of the sport, has not taken the chequered flag first since 2021, when he narrowly lost out in a gripping title battle against Verstappen.