Lewis Hamilton cannot wait for season to end after qualifying 11th in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton was left staring at another abysmal performance in his underperforming machinery.

Philip Duncan
Saturday 25 November 2023 16:43 GMT
Lewis Hamilton arrives for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Lewis Hamilton arrives for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (AP)

Lewis Hamilton said he could not wait for the season to end after he qualified only 11th for Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi – leaving Mercedes on the backfoot to salvage second in the Formula One world championship.

As Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the final race of his all-conquering campaign – with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc runner-up and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri third – Hamilton was left staring at another abysmal performance in his underperforming machinery.

Indeed, Hamilton, six tenths behind Verstappen and a third-of-a-second back from team-mate George Russell, who qualified fourth, even claimed there was something wrong with his car.

His failure to progress to Q3 means the fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship, worth nearly £10million, hangs in the balance.

The Silver Arrows head their Italian rivals by just four points ahead of Sunday’s race in the desert. And Leclerc finished ahead of both Russell and Hamilton to hand Ferrari the initiative.

“I don’t have any answers,” said Hamilton, who gloomily predicted his Q2 demise here 24 hours previously.

“It is just a very unpredictable car and it has been all year. I wouldn’t say I am relieved, but I am definitely happy it is nearly over.”

Hamilton’s comments were echoed by Toto Wolff.

“I’m fed up with having explanations as to why it didn’t go well,” said the Mercedes team principal.

“I’m happy that this was the last qualifying of the season and we will be back with a new car.”

Hamilton’s poor result came after it emerged that his father – and one-time manager Anthony – had enquired about a seat for his son at Red Bull.

Hamilton has recorded just one podium in his last six appearances following Mercedes’ tumble down the grid and he faces an uphill task to salvage a respectable result at the Yas Marina Circuit.

“There is something not right with this car, mate,” said the 38-year-old on the radio as he shook his head.

“The car is more inconsistent than ever before,” he later explained. “It is up-and-down from the moment you hit the brakes, the moment you turn, the moment you hit the apex, it is massively out of balance and hard to predict what is going to happen.

“George and I set our cars up the same, but they don’t read the same so there is something not right on our side. I have been off all weekend and struggled. Eleventh…it takes some good going for me not to get into Q3.”

Hamilton is third in the individual standings, 317 points Verstappen, with the Dutchman the overwhelming favourite to claim a remarkable 19th victory from the 22 rounds.

Mercedes are a staggering 430 points behind the Dutchman’s Red Bull team, who have won every race bar one this year.

Mercedes were handed a minor boost after Carlos Sainz was a surprise eliminated in Q1. Sainz bemoaned traffic for his lowly 16th grid slot.

But Leclerc’s improvement on his final run, to finish just 0.139 seconds behind Verstappen, provides the Prancing Horse with a spring in their step.

“The target is to beat Mercedes, so I hope Carlos gets a good start and joins me in the fight,” said Leclerc.

“Let’s look to put both of our cars in front of Mercedes because finishing second in the constructors is all that matters to me.”

Elsewhere, Lando Norris qualified a disappointing fifth after he got out of shape on his last lap.

“I don’t know why it happened,” he said. “I’ve not done that all weekend so it’s frustrating. I’m just doing a s*** job on Saturday.”

Asked if he was being too hard on himself, the 24-year-old replied: “Not at all. I was fighting for second and I end up fifth because of a stupid mistake. I’m too soft on myself.”

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