Lewis Hamilton says he is “incredibly disappointed in myself” after crashing in Q3 and leaving himself 10th on the grid for the sprint at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Mercedes looked a threat for the front row heading into Q3 and Hamilton was on his first timed lap when he lost the rear at Turn 7 and hit the barrier heavily on the outside of the track. That prevented him from setting a representative lap time, and he apologized to his team after the session.
“I’m OK — it was a big hit but I’m OK,” Hamilton said. “I’m incredibly disappointed in myself, ultimately. I’m so sorry to the team — everyone worked so hard to put this car together and I never like to damage it or bring it back damaged. We were fighting for a top three I think, and I don’t have an answer — I just lost the back end in Turn 7 and that was that.”
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While frustrated, Hamilton says there is a bright side to Friday’s running as he was surprised by how competitive Mercedes is in Austria.
“I’m in encouraged, for sure, to see our performance; we were not expecting to be as close as that today so that’s a huge positive from the team. I’m really quite far back, so I don’t know what’s possible from there but we have a sprint race as well so I hope that tomorrow I can make up some lost time.”
Things got worse for the team later in Q3, as George Russell then also crashed at the final corner to bring out another red flag, although his previous time was good enough for him to secure fifth on Saturday’s grid.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a lucky escape — we need to review the crash damage and there’s nothing lucky or fortunate about making a mistake like that,” Russell said. “It could have been P4 — I was a tenth up on my lap and absolutely went for it because I thought there was an opportunity for third. As it turned out, probably not.
“We just need to see how much damage is done, so sorry to the team and the guys in the garage.”
Despite his pessimism, Russell agrees with Hamilton that the progress made by Mercedes in terms of competitiveness was clear to see on Friday.
“It’s definitely positive signs. We know that we’ve brought some things to the car; we know that Ferrari and Red Bull were probably pushing the boundaries with the planks a bit more than the interpretation and probably these things coming together has come in our favor.
“I’m not getting carried away, Lewis was doing a phenomenal job — he was absolutely flying today. I think I probably went the wrong way with the setup for qualifying but maybe in a good place for the race. I feel OK physically, I’m just a bit concerned about the car and if we can recover it.
“We ordinarily have better race pace than we do qualifying pace. We’re definitely there in the fight. As a team, probably our best qualifying of the year in terms of pace, but probably the worst in terms of outcome! That’s racing — I’m personally going through a tricky couple of races at the moment but we’ve got tomorrow to make up for it.”