Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were made to rue a messy end to the Sprint Shootout that proved costly to the team’s hopes of securing a strong result ahead of today’s Sprint Race.

After the track had dried sufficiently for slicks to be fitted for the final eight-minute segment, Hamilton initially claimed a provisional top spot on his opening run.

However, the Brit would drop to seventh by the end of SQ3 – 0.9s adrift of Max Verstappen – after being compromised on his final run by his own team-mate.

The Mercedes pair embarked upon their final runs in the Shootout close together but a wide moment for Russell at the La Source hairpin resulted in Hamilton almost colliding with the sister car on the Kemmel Straight.

“Not happy about it obviously,” Hamilton reflected afterwards. “It was a really fun session, and it was looking great at the end.

“Obviously I had that lap [in SQ3] that put me first for the first lap that I’d done, and I knew that I could have gone quicker. I reckon I could have been first or second on that last lap. Communication was pretty poor. It was difficult to understand.

“We got to the last corner, and it was seven cars trundling around. We were led to believe we didn’t have any time left which is why we were pushing. But we had plenty of time. With George… it’s the way it is.”

Despite the setback, Hamilton is optimistic of mounting a fightback in the Sprint later today, having expressed confidence in his upgraded W14 around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

“I feel great in the car, in all conditions,” he added. “We’re a little bit slower than the [Red] Bulls in the middle sector, but none of us have driven in the heavier fuel.

“I’m excited it is dry today, so hopefully we can have a good race.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day.

By comparison, Russell struggled immensely in the mixed conditions and was fortunate to advance beyond both SQ1 and SQ2.

Eventually, the Brit wound up slowest of all in the top 10 shoot-out, setting a lap that was 6.6s off the leading pace following his mistake at the start of his final run.

Offering his version of events, Russell blamed “miscommunication” for the incident at the end of a session that he described as a “total mess from start to finish”.

“Surprised we got to Q3, because there were so many mistakes on my side, and a bit of miscommunication at the end,” Russell summarised.

“We were stressing about the clock finishing, and I think we had more time on the clock than we expected. I was too close to the car up front and Lewis was too close to me. Bad, bad session”

 “I thought we weren’t going to make the lap because the clock was running down, but there was definitely more time on the clock than we foresaw.

“Max was the last car to cross the line; I’m sure it was close for him. Total mess this weekend, it’s not going to plan. Hope we can make a bit of recovery in the race. Definitely confident we will be quicker in the races, but so far, single-lap qualifying has been rubbish.”

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