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Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton surprised by Mercedes lack of pace during Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate George Russell qualified fifth and sixth, respectively; Max Verstappen took the pole as Red Bull, and Ferrari outpaced Mercedes at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was surprised by Mercedes’ lack of pace as he and team-mate George Russell were unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the final qualifying session of the season in Abu Dhabi.

World champion Max Verstappen took a dominant pole, with Sergio Perez locking out the front row for constructors’ champions Red Bull, while Charles Leclerc led team-mate Carlos Sainz as Ferrari locked out the second row.

“We thought that this would be a difficult race, but through the weekend so far, we weren’t looking like we were eight-tenth down,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

It’s a one-two for Red Bull as Max Verstappen takes the pole in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Sergio Perez starting in second.

The long straights of the Yas Marina were expected to trouble Mercedes and play into the hands of Red Bull, but the gap appeared bigger in Qualifying than it had done in any of the three practice sessions that preceded it.

Much of Mercedes’ early-season problems, following the introduction of new design regulations for the 2022 season, were a result of the W13 suffering extreme bouncing or porpoising, generally in faster sections of the track.

The problem has largely gone away as Mercedes’ form has improved during the second half of the year, but Hamilton said it was back with “a vengeance” in Abu Dhabi.

“Six-tenths of that (deficit) is just on the straights,” Hamilton said after qualifying almost 0.7s off Verstappen’s leading time.
“Otherwise, I gave it everything and looking forward to the end of tomorrow.
“Bouncing is back with a vengeance, and that’s definitely losing us time. Otherwise, we’re just pretty slow on the straight.”

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz looks back at all the big talking points from qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton also suffered from a brake issue, which team principal Toto Wolff later admitted was a “big” issue that needed solving over the winter.

“I had some brake problems,” Hamilton added. “We’ve had it most of the year, with the brake discs separating at brake temperature.
“So when you hit the brake, the car pulls in one direction. Going into Turn 5, the cars pulling to the right, and it’s a left-hand corner, so it’s not ideal.”

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