Lewis Hamilton left questioning Austrian Grand Prix format after bizarre interview
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Lewis Hamilton was left baffled by F1's qualifying structure after being involved in a bizarre interview following the first race of the Austrian Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion was left doubting whether Friday's qualifying session set the grid for Saturday's sprint or Sunday's Grand Prix.
This year has seen the usual rules change, hence the Mercedes star's confusion, with previous years seeing the Friday race determine the grid for the shorter race. Now, a sprint shootout will take place on Saturday morning.
These changes were obviously unclear to Hamilton who ended up questioning the timetable following a confusing interview.
The confusion started when Hamilton was first asked if the sprint race would be "damage limitation" with the Englishman responding: “I’m not going to have damage limitation because we haven't even qualified for it yet.
“Is that the qualifying for the sprint? That’s for Sunday, yeah, exactly. We haven't even qualified for it yet so there’s no need for damage limitation.
“We will see if we can do better in sprint qualifying tomorrow, depending on the weather and temperatures. From fifth in the race on Sunday is a good, strong position to start from, last year I was further back and it was a tough race so I’m hoping we can have a better race on Sunday.”
It was a mixed qualifying session for Mercedes with Hamilton set to line up in the Grand Prix in P5 after failing to overcome Ferrari whilst McLaren's Lando Norris also snuck in ahead to take a surprise P4.
Additionally, George Russell was knocked out of Q2 after having a lap time deleted for track limits. An underwhelming start to proceedings in Spielberg prompted Hamilton to share his pessimism over Mercedes' chances across the rest of the weekend, admitting the squad's race runs were unlikely to beat their rivals.
“It’s not P1 but I’ll take it and try and work with it tomorrow," the seven-time champion added. "I think our race pace was possibly around third fastest. I think the Red Bulls and Ferraris are quickest or maybe the Astons so maybe we’re fourth. I’m not quite sure exactly we were just trying to focus on getting around as quick as we can today.
“It was a very difficult session, not an easy circuit. Our car in general in the past has not really suited this circuit and it showed it again today. Really tough session but we got through it thank god.”
The Brit has an ongoing bogey streak at the Austrian Grand Prix with his sole win in Spielberg coming back in 2016 whilst Max Verstappen a three-time winner at the Red Bull Ring.
He will go into the Grand Prix fourth in the Driver's Championship standings and is 93 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen.