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Hamilton bemoans ‘worst session’ after changes ‘dramatically backfired’

Lewis Hamilton says he feels “the least confident” he has with Mercedes’ W15 car after enduring “one of the worst sessions for a long time” at the Australian Grand Prix.

After a reasonable opening session at Albert Park in which Hamilton finished ninth but little more than 0.2s off pace-setter Lando Norris, the seven-time world champion struggled to 18th in Friday’s second practice at Albert Park.

Hamilton failed to complete a clean lap on the fastest tyre compound and then lost out on running time as he damaged his car when running off track, while team-mate George Russell was sixth as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped the timesheet.

The 39-year-old has failed in the last two seasons to add to his record haul of 103 F1 victories and is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year.

“I obviously don’t feel great,” Hamilton said. “We had one of the worst sessions I’ve probably had for a long time.

“P1 generally felt quite good, the car actually in P1, run one felt the best it’s ever felt, and it just got worse and worse.

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George Russell reveals how tyre strategies at the Australian GP could differ from last year

“We made some big changes into P2 and it was tough.

“After that session, I feel the least confident I’ve ever felt with this car but there are positives from that P1 run that we did.”

Hamilton’s disappointing start to the weekend in Australia followed underwhelming results at the opening two rounds of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where he finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed that setup changes to Hamilton’s car between the sessions in Melbourne failed to have the desired effect.

“We have achieved to experiment, but we haven’t unlocked performance,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

“In the second session, we have gone through quite a dramatic set-up change on Lewis’ car and that has dramatically backfired, but this is why we are having those sessions.

“On the other side it was a bit better [with George Russell] but we are lacking performance. On a single lap if he finishes that lap we are a bit better, but overall it wasn’t a good day.”

Wolff defiant amid continued Mercedes failure

Having been the sport’s dominant force while winning eight successive constructors’ championships from 2014-2021, Mercedes have been unable to compete with Red Bull since new design regulations were introduced at the start of 2022.

After two disappointing campaigns, the Silver Arrows entered 2024 with plenty of optimism having made major changes in the design of their W15 car, but their start to the season appears to have lowered expectations.

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Toto Wolff responds to the rumours that Max Verstappen is seeking to leave Red Bull to join Mercedes

Wolff is refusing to accept that Mercedes cannot be competitive under the current regulations, which will remain in place until the end of the 2025 season.

“If I would say I am not frustrated it would not be the truth,” Wolff added.

“Certainly, we are because we are trying so much in all directions but don’t seem to have found that silver bullet yet which helps us to get us in the right direction. But we have got to keep trying.

“We have seen performance in this car before and I just don’t want to go back and say we are not good in these regulations because we have everything we need in order to get on top of that – and we will.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Australian GP schedule

The third round of the 2024 F1 season takes place on Sunday, with lights out at 4am on Sky Sports F1
Image: The third round of the 2024 F1 season takes place on Sunday, with lights out at 4am on Sky Sports F1

Saturday March 23

  • 0.10am: F3 Sprint
  • 1.10am: Australian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 3.10am: F2 Sprint
  • 4.15am: Australian GP Qualifying build-up
  • 5am: Australian GP Qualifying
  • 7am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP Qualifying highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Showcase)
  • 10.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay
  • 10pm: F3 Feature Race

Sunday March 24

  • 0.30am: F2 Feature Race
  • 3am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday
  • 6am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 7am: Ted’s Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday replay
  • 9.30am: Australian GP race replay
  • 10am: Australian GP highlights (Sky Showcase)
  • 11.30am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag replay

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – no contract, cancel anytime

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