Lewis Hamilton says he will ‘struggle to get into top 10’ at Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton says he will ‘struggle to get into top 10’ at Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton fears he will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix outside of the top 10 following a disheartening day in practice for the British driver and his Mercedes team.

As Max Verstappen predictably set the pace for Red Bull with a practice double at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton finished only 11th, more than six tenths of a second back.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso raised hope that he could challenge Verstappen and his all-conquering Red Bull team after he finished second for Aston Martin, just 0.170 seconds back. George Russell was eighth in the other Mercedes.

Before stepping into his cockpit this weekend, Hamilton admitted that his team’s much-anticipated upgrade, which made its debut in Monaco a week ago, had not provided the magic fix he was hoping for.

And on his new machine’s second outing at a track where the Silver Arrows said they would obtain a greater understanding of their upgrades, the evidence suggests they are no closer to taking on the mighty Red Bull, or leapfrogging rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Indeed, Mercedes might have fallen further down the pecking order, with Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas all above the seven-time world champion in the order.

Asked about his prospects for qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton said: “From the pace that I had today it will be a struggle to get into the top 10. It is not going to be easy, that is for sure.

“We are fighting as hard as we can. It was a difficult day getting on top of the tyres. The car feels… like the car. Hopefully we can make some changes overnight.

“It is impressive to see the improvements that everyone has made around us – if you look at the Alpines, and you can also see the Aston Martin is right behind the Red Bull which is impressive.”

Hamilton said after May’s Miami Grand Prix that he was “counting down the days” for the upgrade he hoped would propel him back to the front. But there appears no end in sight to his 30-race losing streak.

Verstappen, 39 points clear in his pursuit for a third successive title, has been in a class of one for the past 18 months and his dominance continued on Friday.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen finished quickest in both practice sessions on Friday (Joan Monfort/AP)

A day after he made the ominous prediction that Red Bull could win all 16 remaining races this year, Verstappen finished seven tenths faster than anyone else in the opening running before returning to the top of the timesheets for the day’s final action.

Alonso however, lingers with intent. His home race this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of his 32nd and last win in the sport.

However, the Spaniard, 41, is enjoying a career resurgence following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin, finishing on the podium at five of the first six races.

“Every time I have come to Barcelona I have been told it has been five years since I last won, and then seven years, and now it is 10,” said Alonso.

“But it doesn’t feel that long to me. Last year we saw how much Mercedes improved during the season, and they won in Brazil with George. There will be an opportunity around the corner and we have to be there to take it.”