Mercedes entered qualifying after only pursuing its second pole of the season after 1-2 in FP3, but eventually lost to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Q3 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Verstappen beat Russell and Hamilton to pole by three-tenths of a second, as both Mercedes drivers struggled in their final Q3 runs.
Russell called his final lap “terrible” after going wide in Turn 12 and failing to improve his time, while Hamilton revealed after the session that he felt an engine problem in Q3. He qualified third, five thousandths of a second off Russell’s time.
Hamilton said it was “a good qualifying session overall” with “no major problems”, but he felt the engine problem was costing him some performance.
“We had some problems with the engine towards the end and in Q3,” he said. “So I definitely think there was still performance on the table. I tried my best.”
Hamilton explained that the problem “started appearing in Q2” and then occurred on “every run in Q3, basically running out of power when exiting corners.”
He added: “I think we lost quite a bit of time, I think from the last corner and actually from most of the corners. It felt like an ignition problem. But I do hear it from the team.”
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG
Photo By: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Asked by UKTN about the problem, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said an “oscillation” had been observed on Hamilton’s engine.
“That has a bad influence on the handling characteristics,” said Wolff. “So it definitely affected his lap.”
Hamilton’s only valid time from Q3 was set on his final lap after his first attempt was scrapped earlier in the session for crossing the track limits at Turn 2, setting a time that would be a hundredth of a second slower than his second attempt .
Hamilton explained that losing the first lap made his second “very difficult” as he made sure he didn’t go over the track limits again and risked not setting a time, which would have put him in 10th place.
“I had to be very reticent on that last lap just to make sure it was clean because I was in tenth up until then,” said Hamilton. “Unfortunately, [I was] not being able to push as hard as I would have liked.
“Nevertheless, I think it’s a good result for the team, second and third. It’s not a bad position to start.
“I hope we can solve the problem on Sunday.”