Lewis Hamilton was left downbeat after qualifying fifth for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, while Formula 1 championship rival Sebastian Vettel swept to pole position.
Mercedes arrived in Singapore wary of its chances given the tight and twisting nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, better-suiting the rival cars from Ferrari and Red Bull.
Qualifying went largely as expected, with Vettel grabbing pole ahead of Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen sat fourth.
Hamilton finished over six-tenths of a second off Vettel in Q3, and was disappointed – although not surprised – that Mercedes’ traditional struggles in Singapore were continuing.
“Every year it has been relatively difficult for us in Singapore, so we knew that we would come here and it would be tricky,” Hamilton said.
“I thought Red Bull would be as quick as they were, but I didn’t anticipate Ferrari to be that strong. I gave it everything today but I could not get any more out of the car, I squeezed it until it was dry.
“There are no points for today, so we will focus on doing the best job we can tomorrow and remain hopeful.”
To make matters worse for Hamilton, a lack of overtaking opportunities in Singapore will make progressing up the order a challenge, giving Vettel the chance to overturn the three-point deficit at the top of the drivers’ championship.
“This is a horrible track for overtaking. It will be a long race,” Hamilton said.
“I will have to try and see if I can get a good start to pick off at least one car.
“Sebastian has Verstappen next to him, so anything can happen at the start.”
The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.