Lewis Hamilton fears ‘limited’ Mercedes have ‘gone backwards’ after Baku practice pace

F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have been left ‘scratching their heads’ again ahead of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Red Bull outpaced them across both practice sessions on Friday.

Hamilton had to settle for P7 and P11 across the two sessions, with teammate Valtteri Bottas languishing down in 10th and 16th.

By contrast, rivals Red Bull, who lead the standings, had both drivers top the timing sessions – with Max Verstappen fastest in the first session and Sergio Perez quickest in the second.

Mercedes were looking to bounce back from a poor weekend in Monaco, where Hamilton finished seventh after struggling with getting heat into his tyres, while teammate Bottas retired mid-race.

But the seven-time world champion was left perplexed by their relative lack of pace, and admitted concerns ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

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“I had one lockup in P1 [free practice one], but just slow.

“In general I feel like I’m driving well, and the car felt better in P1, there’s just no more time in it.

“We’re definitely quite a chunk down and I think everyone will be scratching their heads and looking at data to try and figure out where we can improve – the long run was better.

“I was pushing [in free practice] and I was on the limit, but the car is limited. There are areas that I should just be quicker, but there’s no more grip.

“But we’ll work on it and of course it’s not easy to be out of the top 10 when we’ve had pace in other places, I don’t really know why we’re where we’re at.

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Hamilton lost the lead of the drivers’ standings in Monaco as Verstappen opened up a four-point gap after taking victory in Monte Carlo.

It was a weekend that Mercedes had hoped they could learn from.

Hamilton added: “It’s impossible to say [if we learned anything from Monaco] at the moment.

“Pace-wise, we’ve not gone anywhere forwards, if anything today it looks like we’ve gone backwards, but I don’t really know – we’ll wait and see.”

After no points last time out, Bottas echoed his team-mate’s words.

“It was very tricky for us, clearly lacking pace,” agreed the Finn.

“The balance is not that far off. OK, the car is maybe a bit unpredictable, it feels like no grip and it’s sliding around.

“It was tougher [than we thought it would be]. Monaco wasn’t easy but at least we were more or less there by the time of qualifying.

“Now we seem quite a bit off, it definitely has been a more challenging day than we anticipated.”

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