Mercedes have stated that they went "a bit too far" with changes to Lewis Hamilton's car set-up during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, after he dramatically dropped out in the first qualifying phase. Hamilton failed to progress from Q1 for the first time since 2017 during Saturday night's grid-deciding session at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, while teammate George Russell made it through to the top 10 shootout. Following his early exit from the session, Hamilton suggested that he had gone the "wrong way" in terms of his set-up direction , having struggled with the balance of his W13 around the flowing, high-speed street track.
Mercedes expand on Hamilton's qualifying struggles
Now Mercedes have expanded on the situation, with the team's Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin, admitting there were "a few reasons" for Hamilton's qualifying struggles. Most of all, the explorative set-up changes left the seven-time World Champion with a distinct lack of rear-end grip. "Fundamentally, we don't really understand the car yet as well as we do at the end of the year – we've only had two races with it," said Shovlin in Mercedes' Saudi Arabian GP debrief. "We are always exploring the set-up with Lewis, trying to find a direction that delivers performance, and we'd found a good direction from Friday into Saturday that he was able to try in the third practice session. "We went quite a bit further on that into the qualifying session, but ultimately it was a bit too far, so from the word go, he was lacking rear grip."
Confidence is key at the Jeddah street track
Shovlin went on to comment that, with Hamilton struggling for grip, the effect spiralled on the demanding Jeddah circuit. "Jeddah is a street circuit [where] you need a lot of confidence; it's very fast, the walls are very close and, when you haven't got the rear grip, the driver can't have that confidence," added Shovlin. "Ultimately, we pushed it a bit too far, but it was a useful learning exercise." He then warned that if Mercedes cannot quickly find a solution for their problems, there could be a repeat at future races. "Fundamentally, the problem right now is the car is not fast enough and, unless we get it perfect, we are going to be at risk in those sessions," added Shovlin. "We need to make a quicker car as soon as possible."