Hamilton and Leclerc regret a difficult start to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend

Hamilton and Leclerc regret a difficult start to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend
Hamilton and Leclerc regret a difficult start to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton described his driving style as “disastrous” and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was left stunned after a tough sprint qualifying session at the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.

Hamilton qualified for Saturday’s sprint grid in a disappointing sixth place, while Leclerc was just 10th behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull pole-sitter.

“I wasn’t in it at all, the whole session was quite disastrous from our point of view,” said Hamilton, who ran wide and went off track on his first flying lap in SQ1. “The training was good, the car felt good, I don’t think we had the speed to be on pole, but they were very bad laps.

“I don’t think overtaking is huge here, but we will do our best. It’s not normally a race full of events, so I think the focus tomorrow will be on better qualifying.”

His teammate George Russell qualified fourth.

Russell said he felt capable of challenging and believed Mercedes’ form supported the view that they are on track to become a more competitive force again.

An unhappy Leclerc was stunned by his and Ferrari’s latest flop. The Monegasque, who claimed an emotional home win at the Monaco Grand Prix last month, was classified 10th after failing to clock a lap due to a car problem as he left the pit lane. His Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, who leaves the team this year to be replaced by Hamilton, finished fifth. “I don’t know what happened,” said Leclerc, whose Ferrari career was often blighted by team mistakes or poor judgment.

“I was in the pit lane and then the anti-stall switched off.

“The team told me we would speak when I get back to the garage, but I came straight here so I don’t know.”

As the cars began to leave the pit lane for their final flying laps to determine pole position, Leclerc pulled over to the side of the road to let his rivals pass. He rejoined the action, but it was too late to allow him to complete a warm-up lap and cross the start-finish line for the checkered flag.

As a result, he did not clock a flying lap time. “We didn’t look super strong, but certainly better than P10,” he added. “So it’s a little bit disappointing. We have to see what happened and try to have a strong sprint race and get back to the front.”

After winning in Monaco with Sainz in third place, Leclerc and Ferrari suffered a double DNF (Did Not Finish) in Canada. Both drivers failed to reach the top ten of qualifying and finished fifth and sixth in Spain last Sunday.

He arrived in Austria with some confidence in a chance to repeat his 2022 victory, but appeared to suffer from the Italian team’s continued inconsistency. “In Montreal we identified quite well what went wrong and it was more with the tyres,” said Leclerc. “But in Barcelona we lacked raw speed and were slower than expected. I don’t think we optimised our package.

“So we continue to work and also try to optimise the new package that we have on the car, which obviously came out for the first race in Barcelona.

“And we still have some work to do to better understand these new components that we’re using now. But I don’t think the problems we have are the same and we don’t have a trend.”