Hamilton baffled


Having lost out to Ferrari in Bahrain where the conditions were always expected to suit the SF71-H, everyone expected the Mercedes to be the dominant form once again China, no one more so than world champion Lewis Hamilton.

However, with the second front row lock-out in as many weeks, Ferrari stunned its German rivals on a day that may prove pivotal not only for the 2018 title.

"I don't know if we can challenge," said a clearly stunned Hamilton at the end of qualifying, "we're half a second behind today.

"Honestly I can't tell you if we can challenge," he insisted. "We were quicker in the last race but they were able to hold on. They will probably do the same tomorrow.

"I'm confident I can stay where I am, but moving forward is going to be tough," he admitted. "Valtteri did a good long run, the two guys ahead did a good long run but you need a second to overtake here."

A brief revival in Q2 suggested that perhaps Hamilton, and Mercedes, had something up their sleeves, the Briton and his teammate both around 2s quicker than the Ferraris on the soft rubber with which they will start the race.

But in Q3, the Maranello outfit responded, and how, both drivers posting the fastest laps of the weekend and leaving the Silver Arrows over half-a-second in their wake.

Asked about Ferrari's new consistency, the Briton replied: "I'm not really thinking about the Ferraris right now, I'm trying to understand why we don't have the pace.

"For some reason their car is working everywhere," he continued. "It's strange... you go to Bahrain where it's very hot and we would expect Ferrari to be strong, but they are even stronger than we expected.

"In the race, we weren't too bad, which wasn't expected, but then we come here, with conditions you would expect we would be doing well, but a bit like last year their car works everywhere. How long it will last, I don't know.

"Today was definitely a shock when we got into FP3 and the car was completely different," said the Briton, who has had an admittedly scrappy weekend including a spin in FP3. "I didn't make any changes. Firstly, tomorrow we could regret it, and qualifying could have been different. So, we stuck with where we were and it wasn't particularly enjoyable to drive."

Asked why he appeared more competitive on the harder (soft) rubber, he admitted: "I can't explain it. That run the car felt more right and all the other runs it didn't. The tyres were just different for some reason on that specific run, but again it's a temperature thing.

"The guys will do a lot of analysis but it's very hard to understand it when you go out on a softer tyre and it doesn't feel anywhere as good as it did on the soft. I don't have the answer to it."

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Published: 14/04/2018
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