Motor racing-Hamilton second in sprint but qualifies 18th for Chinese GP

Formula One F1 - Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China - April 20, 2024 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during sprint REUTERS/Edgar Su

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton failed to make it out of the first part of qualifying for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, despite having finished second in Saturday's sprint.

The 39-year-old Mercedes driver had told reporters after his second place finish behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the sprint race that he had missed the feeling of lining up on the front row and forgotten what it felt like to lead a race.

Hamilton did not think he would be challenging for the front row on Sunday but 18th place was far worse than expected.

"Sorry guys," the British driver said to his team over the radio as he made his way back into the pits.

"I made massive changes into qualifying," Hamilton later told Sky Sports, following his elimination as one of the four slowest drivers.

"(The car) wasn't too bad in some places. I couldn’t stop in Turn 14," he added. "It is what it is."

His team mate George Russell qualified eighth on the grid for Sunday, with Verstappen taking Red Bull's 100th pole in F1.

"(The car) was very challenging out there, almost lost it in Q1 on my fast lap. It’s not easy to drive, for sure," Russell said.

Hamilton had said he had found out a lot about the car from the sprint and would make adjustments to the setup ahead of qualifying.

"This morning George and I had very similar cars but then this afternoon, we're trying to experiment still with the car so I went one way, a long way, and then he went the other way just to see if we could find anything," Hamilton said.

Russell said 18th on the grid was not where "the best driver of all time" deserved to be, but that Mercedes needed to try things for the team to find the performance gains required to take the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari.

"Of course, when you make these big setup adjustments, straight into qualifying, it does take some time to adapt to it, Russell said. "We just need to keep working, keep trying things."

Hamilton's former Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, said 18th place was "seriously painful".

"He had a great lap until then," he added. "It was really unnecessary to push the limit and as a seven-time world champion that is a mistake which should be avoidable."

(Reporting by Joe Cash; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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