Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes' struggles continue in Azerbaijan practice

Lewis Hamilton caught in the slow lane in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix… as Mercedes’ struggles continue with the team more than a SECOND off the pace of Red Bull

  • Lewis Hamilton finished a shocking 11th in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
  • Mercedes were over a second off the pace set by the two Red Bull drivers
  • Team principal Toto Wolff turned down TV slot to explain continued struggles
  • Hamilton lost championship lead to Max Verstappen two weeks ago in Monaco 

Lewis Hamilton was left scratching his head after finishing a shocking 11th in practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion stomped dejectedly back to the Mercedes facility in the paddock without removing his helmet and his boss Toto Wolff turned down a slot offered by the TV cameras to present his thoughts on the day’s running.

And so began a long night’s trawl through the data in Baku. The space at the microphone which Wolff declined was taken by Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, who told his opposite number that he should ‘keep his mouth shut’ and ‘be careful what you wish for’ as their row over ‘flexible wings’ continued to bubble away.

Lewis Hamilton endured a horror practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to finish 11th

The Briton is looking for a response after losing his championship lead two weeks ago

More of that sideshow later, but first Hamilton’s disappointment at finding himself more than a second adrift of the pace set by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen, quickest in the late morning session, and Sergio Perez, top dog in the afternoon.

The Briton had hoped to put his disappointment of a fortnight ago in Monaco behind him. There he finished seventh and surrendered the championship lead to Verstappen, the race winner, who holds a four-point advantage.

Hamilton’s chances of overturning that deficit look slim after he was only seventh fastest in the first practice session before he slipped even further behind. This is certainly a bump in the road — though nothing more yet — for the team of the decade.

Hamilton could supply no definitive cure, though he well knew the symptoms, saying: ‘We are just slow. It is not easy to be out of the top 10 on pace, and I don’t really know why we are where we are. It seems we have gone backwards (since Monaco).

Sunday’s race around the streets of Baku present another chance for Red Bull to shine

Hamilton continued to struggle and was more than a second behind leader Sergio Perez

‘I feel like I am driving well. We are quite a chunk down, and everyone will be scratching their heads and trying to figure out how we can improve.The car is limited. There are areas where I should be quicker, but there is just no more grip.’

Hamilton’s woes, 1.049 sec off the pace, were compounded by his team-mate Valtteri Bottas finishing 16th out of 20 — 2.1 seconds adrift.

Ferrari looked strong with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc fourth and fifth.

As for the Horner-Wolff spat, Wolff has been critical in recent weeks of Red Bull’s flexible rear-wing, believing it gives an illegal advantage. Horner insists it doesn’t — saying it has passed the FIA tests, no grey areas. However, a new load test will be introduced at the next race in France. After watching footage shown to him by Sky Sports F1, Horner countered that Mercedes themselves seem to have flexible front and rear wings. Touché.

Christian Horner refused to back down in his row with Toto Wolff over the flexible rear-wing

He said: ‘If I were Toto, with the front wing he’s got on his car, I’d keep my mouth shut.’

Commenting on Mercedes’ rear wing, he added: ‘That, if anything, looks maybe a bit worse than ours.’

Asked if he would protest the Mercedes car, Horner was non-committal, instead firing a shot across the bows.

‘A lot of noise has been made about the rear wing and a lot of revisions have had to be made. If you’re picking on one end (of the car) you have to look at the other. You can’t look at one part in isolation.

‘Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. You’re opening a can of worms. It’s impossible to make an entirely rigid structure when you have tons of downforce applied to it.’




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