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Jenson Button

Button wonders what Hamilton will do after 'very strange' qualifying

Jenson Button is curious to see what Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will choose to do after only managing to qualifying 16th for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton Saudi
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

One of Lewis Hamilton's former teammates is intrigued about the approach Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will have to Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with the seven-time World Champion only qualifying 16th for the race.

Hamilton was knocked out in the first part of qualifying in Jeddah after a subdued session in which he simply appeared to not have the necessary pace, or confidence in the car, in order to make it into Q2.

This was in stark contrast to teammate George Russell, who made it into Q3 after being six-tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton in Q1, and Jenson Button said that such a gap isn't down to Hamilton's skills.

"[It's unusual to see] that big gap between a teammate of Lewis and Lewis," Button told Sky Sports F1.

"It was the same in Bahrain, but the other way around, so Lewis was almost a second quicker than George in Bahrain.

"He got the tyres into a working range that works with the car, whereas he wasn't able to do that here in Saudi Arabia.

"It was a really, really strange qualifying session for him, [and] very unexpected for him, for the team and for the whole of F1 to see him that far down."

Will Hamilton start from the pit lane?

Hamilton has hinted at changing his set-up completely for the race, which would be a breach of parc ferme conditions and require him to start from the pit lane.

This decision from Mercedes is yet to be confirmed by the team or the FIA.

"It's going to be interesting to see what he does, starting 14th (Hamilton is due to start from 15th due to the withdrawal of Haas' Mick Schumacher)," Button said of Hamilton's starting position.

"Is he going to start 14th (sic), or are they going to change the car and start at the back? Starting 14th with the balance he had, it's going to be tricky to make good inroads into the top 10."

Button surprised by Mercedes' lack of pace

With Mercedes' W13 clearly not a particularly strong package to start the season, Button said it's difficult to make sense of the team's decision to pursue their chosen development path, as they've cited a potentially higher performance ceiling for their package.

"It's tricky. I mean, you still want to start the season with a strong car," Button said.

"It's the start of the new regulations. I do feel that most cars will develop a lot through the year. Mercedes probably will develop more than most, because they're just very good at that, as we've seen with regulation changes in the past.

"But it's a surprise for everyone in the paddock. I think we looked at Mercedes in winter testing and they were relatively competitive. Bahrain [was] a tricky one.

"Obviously, Lewis came away with a podium, which is a great drive but, here, it seems like it's a bit of a step backward from the first race, and we felt that they would be a little bit more competitive with a fast, flowing circuit here in Saudi Arabia."

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