Lewis Hamilton cut a frustrated figure after admitting the opening two practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix have left Mercedes with much to ponder. The Silver Arrows’ weekend got off to a difficult start in first practice as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished well off the pace of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who finished top of the timing charts and headed a Scuderia one-two at Albert Park. Things didn’t get much better in second practice for a team looking to record a ninth straight constructors’ title, with both of Mercedes’ drivers over a second behind eventual victor Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and pole-sitter for each of the last six races in Australia, found himself well down the field in 13th, more than one-and-a-half seconds behind the triumphant Monégasque driver. Speaking after second practice, he accepted that any pre-weekend optimism had quickly been quashed, although he was quick to back his team to rediscover their formula for success. “I feel good, I feel okay. It was just a difficult session,” he told Sky Sports.
“You go in very optimistic, you make changes, and it doesn’t seem to be wanting to improve. We made some changes going into FP2; FP1 was better, and FP2 ended up being a bit harder, so it’s tricky. “I don’t think it’ll be tricky to find our way back. This is the way it is, so we just have to drive with it.
“We’re trying to push, trying to catch, and even when you do a decent lap, it’s 1.2s down.” Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell, currently fourth in the World Drivers’ Championship standings but without a podium after the opening two races, also conceded that the team’s current plight is less-than-ideal as they continue to find themselves cut adrift in the middle of the pack.
“We’re not in the position that we want,” he said. “There’s quite a few midfield cars ahead of us, and we’re quite a long way off the pace. “We need to work hard tonight and understand the limitations [of the car].”Asked if he was still enjoying driving, Russell added:
“Driving is always cool [but] you enjoy it more when you’re on top of the timesheet! “When you think you’ve done a good lap and then you look at the timesheet and see that you’re down in P11, it’s not where we want to be as a team. It’s all about results.”