Lewis Hamilton has poor start to 2023 season as George Russell beats him

Lewis Hamilton suggested on Friday that Mercedes were further behind the frontrunners than they were last season.

Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix looks set to be an enthralling one, with Mercedes having qualified closer to the front than initially predicted, with George Russell starting sixth and Lewis Hamilton seventh.

Heading into the Bahrain GP, Mercedes were expected to be well behind Red Bull and Ferrari; however, it was quickly discovered in Q1 that the Germans had found some performance during Free Practice 3.

Mercedes endured a challenging Friday at the Bahrain International Circuit, which resulted in many ruling them out of the fight for pole position.

Whilst neither Russell nor Hamilton had the pace for pole, both Mercedes drivers were just over six-tenths behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen, who claimed his 21st career pole.

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Mercedes were typically stronger on Sundays than Saturdays last season, meaning they could be amongst the fight for the podium tomorrow.

Russell out-qualifying Hamilton was actually quite surprising, with the 38-year-old having been the quicker of the two Mercedes drivers all weekend.

Hamilton isn’t too disappointed to have qualified behind his team-mate after having thought that the team wouldn’t have the pace for Q3, with his car having also not felt “alive”.

Despite starting seventh, Hamilton believes he can “definitely close the gap” on the frontrunners, suggesting that anything is possible on Sunday.

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“We went in with a really open mind,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying.

“I woke up this morning thinking we were going to be a lot further behind, and so the fact we’re even getting into Q3 was great.

“We made a step forward today and the car was feeling much more alive this morning, and all of a sudden we were in a different place to where we were the day before. 

“But then we got to qualifying and for me the car just didn’t feel alive, it felt kind of average.

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“The direction I’ve gone with my set-up, I’m hoping it will work better tomorrow because I’ve tried to set it up for tomorrow, but it made it a little bit difficult for Qualifying.

“It’s not an impossible mountain to climb, so that’s a positive, and I know everyone back at the factory has been working so hard. 

“We can definitely close the gap, we’ve just got really focus and push like never before.”