F1 preview: A lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton has been warned that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix could be ‘even tougher’ after his struggles in the sprint race on Saturday. The seven-time world champion finished a disappointing seventh after struggling with tyre wear and balance, an issue that could be even worse in today’s conditions.
Hamilton has struggled at times this season with Mercedes failing to build a car capable of challenging front runners Red Bull. The Brit has also found himself behind Ferrari and Aston Martin at times this year and things have not really improved in Baku.
A fantastic qualifying lap helped him to fifth on the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday however Saturday’s sprint was more difficult. The 38-year-old finished seventh after struggling with the tyre wear throughout the race and he has now been warned by Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin that the issue could be even worse with a hotter track expected.
“The Sprint Shootout went well with George in 4th and Lewis in 7th,” Shovlin told the Mercedes website. “It seemed the hotter conditions helped us relative to the cooler session yesterday. Managing the risk of yellow and red flags is the biggest challenge here so we were out early in each session.
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“The F1 Sprint was interesting as it gives us a bit of data on tyres to carry into the race tomorrow. The medium held on pretty well but without the Safety Car it may have been tricky.
“George did a good job to finish fourth whilst Lewis struggled a bit with the balance. He lost a place at the restart and the rear degradation meant he didn’t have the car to try and take it back. We’ll look at tools to improve that for tomorrow as it’s going to be even tougher with a hot track.”
If Shovlin’s theory is true it would be bad news for Hamilton as he tries to get his season back on track. Sky Sports pundit Naomi Schiff has suggested that the Brit does not fully trust the W14, something that will not be helped if the team’s struggles continue.
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Hamilton himself admitted that the Grand Prix was going to be tough as he discussed his drive on Saturday.
“I like that we’re trying something new with this format,” he said. “The extra qualifying session was fun. The sprint race was less exciting but that’s probably because I was struggling.
“It wasn’t ideal losing the position to Alonso. It’s never great going backwards but that’s motor racing sometimes. I didn’t have the pace of the cars ahead of me, but I know why that is now, from having the Sprint.
“It’s a good indicator of what the problem is in terms of set-up, so we’ll look into it and hopefully make some improvements tomorrow. It’s going to be tough, but anything can happen.”
Lights out in Baku is at 12pm today with Hamilton on the third row of the grid alongside old foe Alonso.
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