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Lewis Hamilton bemoans 'horrible' Sao Paulo GP Sprint, as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff accepts 'bruising day'

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both left disappointed after a lack of pace saw them both finish more than 25 seconds back from Sao Paulo Grand Sprint winner Max Verstappen; watch the Sao Paulo GP at 5pm on Sunday, with build-up from 3.30pm, live on Sky Sports F1

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Lewis Hamilton struggled to maintain control of his Mercedes in the Sao Paulo Sprint.

Lewis Hamilton bemoaned a "horrible" Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint after dropping backwards to finish seventh on what Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described as a "bruising day" for the team.

Mercedes had entered the event that brought their only victory of last season with high hopes and appeared to be maintaining them even after being slightly off the pace in Friday's qualifying and Saturday morning's Sprint Shootout.

However, even after an ideal start to the Sprint as Hamilton and team-mate George Russell gained places on the opening lap, both cars lost ground on top two Max Verstappen and Lando Norris at an alarming rate.

Russell finished in fourth 25 seconds back from Verstappen, while Hamilton only just held on to a points-scoring position as he came seventh, a further nine seconds back from his team-mate.

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Lewis Hamilton says he's expecting a difficult race on Sunday after his Mercedes struggled for pace in the Sao Paulo Sprint.

"It was horrible," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "It was not enjoyable whatsoever.

"I had a good start and then after that just struggled with the balance. A lot of understeer, then snap oversteer, and I was just fighting the car from very early on.

"Then I had no tyres in the end. I don't really know how I'm going to fix that for (the Grand Prix) tomorrow."

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The seven-time world champion had hoped this weekend could bring an end to his near-two-year winless run, but now appears resigned to looking to hold onto the fifth place he earned in qualifying on Friday.

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There was a dramatic start to the Sao Paulo Sprint with multiple overtakes on the opening lap.

"It's going to be a long afternoon, that's for sure," he added. "I can only assume I've got the set-up wrong. It is what it is.

"I'll fight as hard as I can tomorrow, but we won't be winning that's for sure.

"I'll just be trying to see if I can manage the tyres better tomorrow."

Wolff: We need to scratch our heads hard

Mercedes team principal Wolff offered a similarly damning assessment of his team's display, believing that the early progress his drivers made ultimately cost them later in the race.

Russell gained two places on the opening lap, while Hamilton moved up a position, before both drivers engaged in battles to try to hold off faster cars behind them.

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits it was a 'bruising' day for the team, with the cars struggling for pace in the Sao Paulo Sprint.

"I think we pushed very hard at the beginning, the car was not balanced right, and then you put in some sliding and it just killed the tyres. It's what happened to George in Mexico," Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

"I think we had a little bit too weak of a rear end, and then obviously it's balancing them on the knife's edge.

"Trying to hold onto the pace was maybe something we need to learn for tomorrow, but a bruising day."

Mercedes currently hold a 24-point advantage over Ferrari in the contest for second place in the constructors' standings, but are at risk of having their lead reduced in Sunday's race with Charles Leclerc starting from second for the Italian team.

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Lando Norris retakes second spot in the Sprint as he overtakes George Russell in Sao Paulo.

Hamilton will start from fifth, while Russell will begin from eighth after receiving a two-place grid penalty for impeding other cars in the pit lane exit.

"I don't think that there is a magic screw you can turn and then everything is fixed," Wolff added.

"It was very hot, everything went against us today. We need to really scratch our heads hard over what we can do for tomorrow, and improve."

Russell: It was pretty awful

Despite being the better-performing Mercedes on Saturday, Russell admitted that the team's lack of pace was both "confusing" and "surprising".

"It was pretty awful to be honest," Russell told Sky Sports F1. "It caught us totally by surprise.

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George Russell says the Mercedes' pace was 'pretty awful', describing it as their least competitive race of the season.

"We need to look at the data, try to understand it, but that was probably the least competitive race we've had all season, and we went in with quite high expectations.

"Unfortunately it's always down to these tyres and getting them in the sweet spot. Especially these last two weekends, nobody's really understood when it's working for them, and they've found a lot performance, like Ferrari in qualifying last week, then we found our pace in the race and suddenly it wasn't there for us today when we expected quite a lot.

"The pace we had was kind of in line with my expectations, it was just that everybody else was substantially quicker.

"Even Max, we've never been that far behind. He finished 25 seconds ahead in a 24-lap race. Over a second a lap and that was really quite surprising for us."

When to watch the Sao Paulo GP live only on Sky Sports F1

Sunday November 5

  • 3.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Sao Paulo GP build-up
  • 7pm: Chequered Flag: Sao Paulo GP reaction
  • 8pm: Ted's Notebook

F1 is in Brazil for the final leg of the Americas triple header. Watch the Sao Paulo Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday's race at 5pm. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW

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