Mercedes already thought they would perform well in Qatar, but what they didn’t see coming was the big gap between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in qualifying.
Hamilton looked strong after the free practice sessions in Qatar, but so did Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly. Hamilton did not top any of the free practice sessions, but was suddenly four tenths faster than Verstappen in qualifying. They saw that Mercedes would be better, but not that the gap would be that big.
“We thought we would be good here, but out of the three circuits of the triple header, this race was our biggest concern,” said Andrew Shovlin, track side engineering director from Mercedes. “From Saturday morning it seemed that Lewis had everything under control, but it is very difficult to predict whether the margin will be one or two tenths, although that is still a nice margin.”
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“We never thought the margin would be this big, but it all came down to that last run for him,” explains Shovlin. “Turn 1 went well for him and he indicated that he was in the flow from that point on.”
At least at Mercedes they see a strong and relaxed Hamilton. “He is now completely in the zone. We can do all our simulations, but we have no explanation for the gap to Verstappen. It just comes down to going deep and doing what needs to be done,” Shovlin said.