Lewis Hamilton desperate to see back of this season’s uncompetitive Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton desperate to see back of this season’s uncompetitive Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton cannot wait to consign his under-performing Mercedes to history as he faces the daunting task of keeping his unique winning record alive in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton is the only driver in Formula One’s record books to end every season with a victory.

But he will start the 22nd and final round of the campaign from only fifth as Max Verstappen took pole position, nearly seven tenths of a second ahead.

Sergio Perez locked out the front row for Red Bull, a week after the team-mates clashed in Brazil when Verstappen failed to yield sixth place on the final lap.

Perez is battling Charles Leclerc for second in the standings. Leclerc, level on points with the Red Bull driver, starts third, ahead of Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell came next on a sobering evening for the Silver Arrows, just six days after Russell took the team’s sole win of a turbulent campaign at Interlagos.

But Hamilton will be relying on bad luck to strike both Red Bulls and both Ferraris in Sunday’s 58-lap affair at a track where overtaking is far from easy to make it two from two for the grid’s once-dominant team.

Hamilton, 37, will participate in a tyre test here on Tuesday before handing the keys to this year’s unruly machine back to his employer.

“I am looking forward to the end of Tuesday which is the last time I will have to drive this thing,” he said.

“I don’t ever plan to drive it again. It will not be one of the cars I request to have in my contract.

“Everyone in the team knows the problems and where we have gone wrong. I am pretty confident that they are not going to build the next car with any of those characteristics.”

Mercedes were the tour de force of F1, winning a record eight constructors’ championships. However, they are 19 points adrift of Ferrari in the race for best of the rest behind Red Bull.

“Today just turned into a toilet day,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“We didn’t get the job done. We went backwards and Red Bull and Ferrari took a step forward.”

Verstappen wrapped up his second world championship with four rounds to spare at the Japanese Grand Prix in October.

His triumph on Saturday marked his seventh pole of the year and on Sunday he will bid for his 15th win of a crushing campaign.

But the Dutchman was jeered in Abu Dhabi following criticism of his behaviour a week ago when he failed to help out team-mate Perez in Brazil.

“I am very happy both cars are on the front row,” said the Dutch driver amid the heckles. “We want to win the race, but we also want Sergio to finish second in the championship.”

Perez, keen to put any ill-feeling to one side, added: “Max did a great job for me today.

“We worked together as a team, and I am looking forward to tomorrow. I hope we can have a strong race.”

Sebastian Vettel will start his last dance from ninth. The German, 35, is bringing the curtain down on a career which has yielded four championships and 53 wins.

He lines up one place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has been deemed surplus to requirements by McLaren and is heading back to Red Bull as a reserve driver.