George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admits they’re flabbergasted at how fast Lewis Hamilton was at the weekend after the seven-time world champion stormed to victory at the Qatar Grand Prix, somewhere F1 has never raced at before. Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying for the second weekend in a row, with championship leader Max Verstappen nearly half a second slower in second.
The 36-year-old was in command off the line as the lights went out, with only an AlphaTauri and an Alpine to hold off on the run-up to Turn 1, as Verstappen carved his way from seventh to second.
But it was clear early on that the Red Bull couldn’t match the Mercedes for pace, with Verstappen admitting they were clearly going to finish second so “let’s have fun”.
After back-to-back wins for Hamilton in Brazil and Qatar, even Mercedes admitted they were surprised by Hamilton’s dominance.
“The margin, yes. We thought we’d be good here but this was the track of the three that remained that we were perhaps most concerned about,” Shovlin said.
“From Saturday morning though it looked like Lewis had it all under control.
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“It’s very difficult to predict that the margin’s going to be one-tenth or two tenths, which is still a pretty handsome margin.
“We never thought it would be the amount it was but it all came in that final run. Turn 1 was good and he said from there it just kind of flowed.
“But he’s really in the zone at the moment. We can do all our simulations but nothing explains why he was that far ahead of Max.
“Fundamentally it’s just down to him really digging deep and doing what needs to be done.”
Hamilton closed the gap to Verstappen to just eight points with two races remaining.
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With the championship swinging once again, Hamilton pinpointed what he believes has changed.
“As the year’s gone on, we’ve understood the car more, we’ve definitely been able to squeeze more performance out of the package without bringing any upgrades,” said Hamilton.
“We’ve not had an upgrade since Silverstone, so it’s quite phenomenal to see the increments that we’ve been improving.
“It’s very close between the two cars, clearly, so I think that lines us up for a great battle.
“But in these last two, I think we’ve just been able to do a better job overall.”
Formula One heads to Saudi Arabia next before the season finale in Abu Dhabi with the championship set to go down to the wire in the desert.
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