Lewis Hamilton hopes his setup approach will benefit him more in the race than it did during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix after being outqualified by both Max Verstappen and George Russell.
Lando Norris’ crash in heavy rain led to a long delay in Q3 but the end of the session took place on the intermediate tire, and Hamilton was on provisional pole starting the final attempts. However, Russell went fastest and Hamilton couldn’t beat the Williams with his last lap, before Verstappen took pole, leaving the championship leader in third but hopeful he has a better car for the race.
“I think there were people with different downforce levels and we tried to find the best compromise, the best balance for potential circumstances today and tomorrow, dry and wet,” Hamilton said. “So we hope we’re OK, we’ll see what the weather is like tomorrow — we’ll see how it works.
“I think our race pace should be a little bit stronger than our pace today. But it’s going to be a handful nevertheless, particularly if it’s in these conditions.”
With teammate Valtteri Bottas qualifying in eighth place and set to be demoted five further positions due to a grid penalty earned in Hungary, Hamilton feels Mercedes could be under pressure strategically if there are stable conditions.
“I don’t really know what happened with Valtteri but unfortunate, because I think they have two Red Bulls not too far away. That’s going to make it a little bit harder in terms of strategy because Valtteri has a penalty also. Nonetheless, we will do everything we can. Tomorrow is another day. I hope it’s not crazy rain like this but interchangeable (conditions) could be fun.”
While Hamilton was disappointed not to be able to match Verstappen and Russell on his final attempt, he says Norris could have demoted him even further, given the pace the McLaren was showing as Mercedes found the conditions tricky.
“In Q3 I think my first lap was OK, but just difficult for everyone. Happy that Lando is OK — he was looking incredibly quick. He probably would’ve been up here with us, or maybe even squeezing me out — he had great pace today. Hopefully he gets back on the road tomorrow.
“Just a tricky session for everyone with the rain, more intense in different parts of the circuit. A real struggle, I would say, for us with our car today. You’ve seen with Valtteri as well, the car was a bit of a handful today.”