SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to seeing the back of his current Mercedes car after admitting Ferrari and Red Bull were in a “different league” during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton qualified 1.8s off the fastest qualifier Max Verstappen — his biggest margin to the front all year — but will start in fourth place due to a series of grid penalties for rival drivers, including Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Mercedes has failed to match Red Bull and Ferrari all year, but arrived at Spa-Francorchamps hoping to close the gap after a promising race in Hungary at the end of last month.
“Everyone’s working for improvement and we came here very, very optimistic we would be able to be close half a second, who knows,” Hamilton said. “So to be 1.8 seconds behind is a real kick in the teeth.
“It’s a car we continue to struggle with and I definitely won’t miss it at the end of the year. For me it’s just about focussing on how we build and design next year’s car.
“The other two teams in front of us are in another league and our car looks so much different to theirs. We have a lot of work to do, we will do the best we can for the rest of the season.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff agreed Red Bull had moved further ahead at Spa and said it was his team’s worst qualifying performance for a decade.
“Clearly Red Bull is in a league of their own,” Wolff said. “For me, it’s the worst qualifying session that I have had in 10 years, irrespective of what positions we’re going to start.
“Being on pole and then three weeks later being nowhere, it’s just not acceptable. It’s the first time that we haven’t been able to turn it around for qualifying. Generally we’ve been much better in the races.
“So it will be interesting to see and to see whether the race performance is better than a quali performance. “But nevertheless, I wouldn’t be flattered by a positive race result — whatever that may be.”
Hamilton said he had worked through numerous setup changes between Friday practice and Saturday and still failed to find performance.
“For sure, it doesn’t make sense, but I tried everything — I put everything on, took everything off, changed wings, changed setup,” Hamilton said. “I’ve done everything this weekend. I’ve tried a lot of things, and it’s just surprising to see us… maybe they’ve moved forwards, I don’t know if they’ve got upgrades or not, but it’s just difficult.”