Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, showcased his resilience in the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint race, despite challenges in qualifying.
Struggling in Saturday’s qualifying session, Hamilton found himself starting the Sprint race from 12th on the grid.
However, he demonstrated his racecraft and determination by clawing his way up to fifth place.
Starting on the medium tire, Hamilton initially faced challenges in pace compared to competitors on the softer compound.
Yet, his strategic tire choice paid dividends as others struggled with tire degradation.
Reflecting on his performance, Hamilton expressed cautious optimism about his race prospects.
“I was quite slow at the beginning on the medium tire,” he admitted.
“I knew that the degradation would be high, and that the race would come back to us.”
“Did I know that I was going to be able to get back up to fifth?
“No, but I was hoping I could the whole time.
“I tried to position my car the best I could, stay out of trouble, and progress one step at a time.
“The car is still tricky to drive, but our pace overall was good.
“I know I’ve got the racecraft on lock.
“I just need to work on my qualifying!”
Hamilton remains focused on improving his qualifying performance and recognises the significance of starting third in the main race.
“That said, tomorrow we start third.
“That is obviously a much better place to be lining up than we were today.
“We should be looking to fight to hold that position.
“We know it will be difficult to hold the McLarens behind.
“They are a little further back though, so we will be doing our best to do that.”
Hamilton’s teammate, George Russell, had a strong start to the Sprint race, rising to second place by the first corner and briefly leading the race.
However, his challenge waned as his soft tires lost grip, resulting in a finish behind winner Oscar Piastri, Max Verstappen, and Lando Norris.
Despite the tire-related challenges, Russell expressed his enjoyment of the race. “I really enjoyed that!” he declared. “The first lap was a little bit wild. I had turn six in my mind as the overtaking opportunity on the medium runners.”
Russell acknowledged the unexpected rapid deterioration of his soft tires but found solace in the safety car interventions that aided his race. “I was surprised by how quickly the soft tire dropped off, and we were fortunate that there were a number of safety car interventions.
“Without that, we may have finished outside the points.”
He also highlighted the unpredictability of sprint weekends, characterised by limited practice and tire knowledge.
“That is what can happen during a sprint weekend, though, where you have limited practice and limited knowledge on the tires.
“Having said that, if we were on the medium, we would have still finished P4. Nothing gained, nothing lost.”