Hamilton on Russia: ‘I was lacking the pace from Saturday’

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So rare are weekends when Lewis Hamilton is “off the boil” or just not on top of his game that when they do occur, they stand out.

Hamilton’s run of form saw him finish no worse than second in each of his last seven Grands Prix, dating to last year’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. Additionally, he’d been on the front row each of the last nine races, the last six of 2016 and first three of 2017.

Statistically, his worst races of late were at Singapore, when he started and finished third, and then at Malaysia, where a sure win went away with his engine failure that was all-but the final coffin in his World Championship hopes despite the pole.

Since that point, Hamilton went four-for-four in wins and poles to end 2016, and kicked off this year with two more poles, a win in China and second on the grid and the flag in Bahrain. Bahrain was the first time new teammate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified him, and that was down to a sterling lap that netted the Finn his first career pole.

But in terms of being second to his teammate, Bottas had the edge all weekend on Hamilton, who qualified and finished fourth and lost the pace from Friday.

He explained what happened in a Q&A with Mercedes’ official website that posted today.

“The car was exactly the same in the race. Friday was a lot different. Then, going into Saturday and Sunday, the car was in the opposite direction,” Hamilton said.

“In general I was lacking the pace from Saturday onwards. I think I had the temperature issues from lap five onwards. From then it was a lot of turning down the settings.”

The engine overheating issue that occurred during the race also scuppered Hamilton’s pace. Hamilton said the team doesn’t know yet what caused the issue.

Hamilton added, “I was slow from yesterday onwards. As I said, I think I could have matched the times of the guys at the front. But whether or not we would have lasted as long with the setup that I had, I don’t know. With the backing off for the temperature I was losing a second at least.”

Hamilton re-iterated it was a speed issue and not a reliability one for why he was off pace.

“Right now we need to understand where the speed was this weekend – where I went wrong with the setup – and then come back for the next race,” he said. “I’m still second in the championship. That’s not the end of the world but, of course, I need to recover the pace I had previously.

“This weekend was not a reliability issue. It was pure pace based on the tires, temperatures and being comfortable in the car. There is no reason for me to think about reliability. I think we have had the strongest reliability so far.

“I don’t know right now (what happened) but we will do some work to fully understand it. I have some ideas but there is some work to be done to figure it out.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III