The Mercedes F1 Team look set to challenge for the latter end of the top five at the French Grand Prix, and not fight for victory like many had predicted.
Mercedes brought floor upgrades to the Circuit Paul Ricard, leaving many, including, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to believe that the German team could win the French GP.
However, with Sir Lewis Hamilton qualifying fourth, and George Russell sixth, having both cars finish in the top five would be a success for the eight-time defending Constructors’ Champions.
Whilst Hamilton managed to out-qualify his usually dominant team-mate, the seven-time World Champion was almost a second slower than polesitter Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton can’t believe how far off the leading pace the team are, revealing that there is “nothing” he can do to close the gap.
“I thought we’d be within three-tenths, but you do a lap and are told it is 1.7 seconds off, and you are like, ‘What?’,” said Hamilton.
“And then you do a really good lap and you are 1.1 seconds off and you are like, ‘Wow’.
“There is nothing I can do in my power to change that. Everyone is working as hard as they can. Each weekend we come with little upgrades but sometimes it doesn’t make a difference. That is difficult for everyone.”
It appears that Hamilton has already written this season off, after telling reporters after the session that he’s currently telling the team what “bits” he wants to feature on the team’s car next season.
“Where I am focused on is trying to understand this car more and working closely on telling the team the bits I do want on the car next year and the bits I don’t,” the 37-year-old added.
Hamilton was hopeful that the team’s new upgrades would make them more competitive this weekend, with the British driver believing that next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix would be the place where the team could end their winless streak.
The Mercedes driver has now written-off winning next weekend, let alone Sunday’s French GP, after coming to the realisation that it’s going to be a “while” before returning to the top step of the podium.
“We are further back than I thought we would be,” admitted Hamilton.
“I was hoping at the next race in Budapest we could close a couple of tenths and be in the fight, though if it is anything like this, it is going to be a while before we win. But it is not impossible.”
With Hamilton already talking in-depth about next season, it looks certain that the Mercedes driver will continue next season.
The French GP will be Hamilton’s 300th GP, leaving Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff to joke that the pair are already discussing a plan to reach 400.
“We talked a few weeks ago about how long our partnership can go and the number discussed was five to 10 years, so we can get to 400,” Wolff joked.