Canadian GP: Lewis Hamilton rues 'messy' qualifying in Montreal
By James Galloway in Montreal
Last Updated: 11/12/18 11:31am
Lewis Hamilton admits a "messy" qualifying put paid to his hopes of claiming a record-equalling seventh Canadian GP pole - but the world championship leader believes all is not lost yet ahead of Sunday's race.
Hamilton qualified only fourth in Montreal, three places behind closest title rival Sebastian Vettel and also two spots adrift of team-mate Valtteri Bottas who came within a tenth of denying the Ferrari the fastest time.
While Mercedes have conceded their decision to bring fewer sets of F1's fastest tyre, the hypersoft, to the weekend has proved costly in hindsight, Hamilton still believes he could have extracted a pole time from the W09 had he not been struggling in what he normally counts as his strongest section of the track.
"On Friday the car balance was great into [Turn] 10. Usually, the last sector is my strongest at this track but I was just struggling," said Hamilton, after also qualifying behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
"There's a massive bumps into Turn 10. Yesterday we had a couple of small lock-ups but not a lot and as you continue to push the set-up there are areas that can be affected. So constantly today going into that corner I was struggling to get the car stopped, be it front locking or rear locking, so it was quite messy.
"I need to look into it to see exactly what it is, but that was definitely a good chunk of time there. Definitely just in that corner alone it was pole position for sure."
However, despite recording his first non-front-row start in Montreal for seven years, Hamilton insisted: "I'm hoping tomorrow that we're still in a good position.
"Our long runs were really good. It will be interesting to see how the Red Bull does as well, so hopefully we can progress and apply the pressure."
Red Bull's decision to lock themselves into starting the race on the fast but brittle hypersoft after running the compound on both their cars in Q2 throws a curveball into Sunday's opening stint given both Ferrari and Mercedes are starting on a harder compound, the ultrasoft.
Mercedes struggled on the hypersoft in Monaco and avoided the compound completely until the end of Practice Three on Saturday after selecting only five sets for the weekend, three fewer than their direct rivals.
Teams have to make their tyre choices for races outside of Europe 14 weeks in advance of the event, meaning Mercedes would have submitted their requests for Canada at the start of March at the first pre-season test.
"We are very accepting of the fact that in hindsight it would have been nice if we had more time to prepare on the hypersoft, but it wasn't the case," said Hamilton, whose final Q3 lap on the tyre was two tenths adrift of pole.
"From our testing, we had in Abu Dhabi [last December] particularly, that's what led us to the decisions we made and we stick with those. We did the best we could with it.
"But it was a combination of things. When we got to qualifying, we knew it was going to be very close, as it was, but in my heart, I really feel like we had the pace to lock out the front row, or I had the pace to be on the front row. But I just struggled in the session and couldn't pull it through. You can't get them all and I'll try to recover from it tomorrow."
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said Bottas' narrow deficit to Vettel - 0.093s - could not purely be blamed on limited running on the hypersoft given Mercedes would also have benefited from an upgraded engine this weekend had the team not run into late reliability concerns with the new units earlier this week.
However, Wolff said: "The fact is this is a championship that is going to be won and lost with the tiniest of margins.
"Certainly not having given the drivers enough track time on the hyper, if we could have changed it now on the weekend we would have changed it. We started to drive on the hyper today but was that the decisive factor? Probably not.
"If we had brought the engine upgrade it would have been an advantage. If you miss out on the tiniest of upgrades, the smallest of mistakes will be penalised. The same applies for our competitors. This is going to make the difference in winning or losing the weekend."