Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he believes something is “fundamentally wrong” with their car as the team continues to struggle around the streets of Baku.
Mercedes were looking to bounce back from a poor weekend in Monaco, where Hamilton finished seventh after struggling with getting heat into his tyres, while teammate Bottas retired mid-race.
But it was a day to forget in the office for the seven-time world champions, with Lewis Hamilton settling P7 and P11 across the two sessions, with teammate Valtteri Bottas languishing down in 10th and 16th.
Hamilton fared better on Saturday morning, going third fastest as main title rival Max Verstappen crashed out of the session.
Bottas, meanwhile, still struggled in the W12, setting the 13th fastest time with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly surprising the field by topping the timesheets.
Max Verstappen crashes out of third practice ahead of Baku qualifying
On Friday, Sky F1’s Simon Lazenby reported that “Toto Wolff has declined to come out and speak to any media, we can understand that.
“He’s gone straight to talk to his engineers to try to find out what on earth has happened [today],” he added.
Wolff eventually did face the media on Friday and admitted they were perplexed by their pace.
“We have a strong race car, but we are struggling to get it for one lap. It is the same as we have seen in Monaco, we don’t deliver in some sections, and it seems to continue in Baku,” he said.
“There are only 90-degree corners here, so it was always clear that it would be difficult for us. You can clearly see in the lap times that something is fundamentally wrong. We are now trying to tune the car so that it works.
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“Probably qualifying will be one of the most difficult sessions I have ever seen for us. It reminds me of Singapore 2015.”
Hamilton lost the lead of the drivers’ standings in Monaco as Verstappen opened up a four-point gap after taking victory in Monte Carlo.
The seven-time champions were hoping to bounce back, however, the Briton concluded they have been left scratching their heads.
“Honestly, I generally had a really good day, I felt it was clean, I got all the laps we needed, there were not really any mistakes,” explained Hamilton.
“Just slow, in general, I feel like I’m driving well, and the car felt better in P1, there’s just no more time in it.
“We’re definitely quite a chunk down and I think everyone will be scratching their heads and looking at data to try and figure out where we can improve – the long run was better.
“I was pushing [in free practice] and I was on the limit, but the car is limited. There are areas that I should just be quicker, but there’s no more grip.
“But we’ll work on it and of course it’s not easy to be out of the top 10 when we’ve had pace in other places, I don’t really know why we’re where we’re at.
Qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix takes place on Saturday afternoon at 1pm.
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