Lewis Hamilton had wanted to fight for the front in qualifying for the French Grand Prix, but acknowledged that Ferrari and Red Bull were ahead “in their own league”.
Charles Leclerc took pole position three-tenths of a second ahead of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez behind and while Hamilton qualified fourth, he was a considerable nine-tenths behind Leclerc up front.
The Mercedes driver shared how happy he was with his latest qualifying effort, but with the gap he has to close with Red Bull and Ferrari, he understands that the two best teams are mostly fighting each other.
“Positively? I’m very happy with my qualifying session, if I’m being very honest,” Hamilton told Sky F1 after the session.
Strong lap, LH 🔥 Thumbs up after P4 in Quali! pic.twitter.com/uEGULH1vMG
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 23, 2022
“My last lap was great. I finished it and I was ‘ah, this is a great round’, [but] still a second or nine-tenths ahead of the boys.
“I don’t know exactly why that gap between these two races has widened, but they are sort of in their own league, in that respect I would say, just in terms of performance.
“But seen [missing] FP1, on the back foot going into FP2, there was really good work from everyone who got together. ”
Mercedes brought Paul Ricard with even more upgrades, but Hamilton downplayed their impact and the changes were minor.
With the speed Mercedes showed in Austria, which they predicted was about two to three tenths a lap slower than the leading teams in race trim, Hamilton was disappointed as he was further off pace than before.
“When we say we have updates, [it’s] as the smallest thing, so it could be half a tenth. Maybe a tenth if it worked perfectly,” he explained.
“And we haven’t really seen [a difference]. It’s hard to really see it, to be honest.
“I really came here thinking ‘okay, in the last race we were three or four tenths behind’ and I thought maybe this weekend we would be three or two tenths behind. [but] we have been for a second [behind] the whole weekend. Sometimes a second and a half.
“So to get to nine tenths, I was happy with my lap and happy with the performance. They (Ferrari and Red Bull) are in their place, but we are still here and everyone behind me is struggling too. So we keep fighting.”
Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell will start the race in P6 after an excellent lap by McLaren’s Lando Norris that split the two Mercedes drivers.