Jeddah, Saudi Arabia—Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton described his Mercedes car as “undriveable” on Saturday after qualifying only 14th on the grid for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
It was the first time since the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix, where he crashed, that he had failed to progress from the Q1 section of a qualifying session and the first time since 2009 in Britain for only speed and performance reasons.
“Of course, I am very disappointed,” said Hamilton, who apologised to the team.
“We have a serious issue—something in the set-up – and it was looking good in P3 (practice) so I tried to progress further in a similar direction, but maybe went too far.
“The car was so nervous it was undriveable.”
Hamilton started the inaugural Saudi Arabian race on pole position last December and has a record 103 poles in his career.
His new Mercedes team-mate and fellow-Briton George Russell qualified sixth, but said he was also struggling with the car designed this year to meet new regulations.
Russell said the team did not understand the new car yet, but believed it had great potential which needed to be unlocked.
“For the team, it’s not a good day. We don’t have a handle on the car at the moment and it has been inconsistent. We are fighting for such a small window (of performance).”
Hamilton said he was unlikely to be able to produce one of his trademark swashbuckling attacking drives from the back of the field to a podium finish on Sunday.
“It’s the same car that I had in qualifying so I don’t anticipate moving very far forward, but I’ll give it everything.”
The 37-year-old Briton, who last weekend finished third in Bahrain to establish a record of standing on the podium in every one of his 16 seasons in F1, said he was considering breaking the parc ferme regulations to make changes to his car and to start from the pit lane.
“Maybe I’ll start from the pit lane and change the car again to make sure it doesn’t handle the way it just did today,” he said.
“For sure, there is something wrong, but I don’t know what it is so I can’t comment on it. I just had no rear end. It was just too loose.
“I just apologise to my team because everyone works so hard and when you don’t deliver for them it’s just gutting.”