After the qualifying session at Paul Ricard, Lewis Hamilton could not hide his disappointment since he could not steal pole position from Max Verstappen.

Since 2018, when Formula 1 came back at Le Castellet, Mercedes dominated both qualifying and race. Therefore, after two disappointing weekends, the Silver Arrows hoped to be ahead of Red Bull at the French Venue.

However, the Milton Keynes-based team proved to be competitive at every circuit so far, and it will not be easy to beat them for Mercedes.

“It’s a lot bigger than we’d hoped,” said Hamilton speaking about the gap. “They’ve been so fast these past races and jeez… We are pushing and giving everything we can, but I think they’ve just got a strong package at the moment. But we’re close. I think today they were beating us more on the straights. So we’ve got work to do to improve.”

Lewis was struggling in free practice, but some late changes ahead of qualifying improved his feeling with the car, and the gap to Max was not huge: only 0.258 seconds.

“It’s been a hard weekend, mentally… just trying to get the car into a happy place. You wouldn’t believe how many changes I’ve made since Practice 1, going round and round, kind of chasing the tail… and it wasn’t making much difference, I was still struggling.

“Eventually we made some changes 10 minutes before [qualifying] and was like, ‘just go with it, let’s see what we can do’,” he added. “In qualifying it was much, much better, so I think it will be good tomorrow, but generally yesterday [Red Bull] were quicker than us on a long run, so it’s going to be a challenge to follow. But there are lots of opportunities tomorrow, hopefully.”

Valtteri Bottas was happier during the free practice sessions, but he was not completely satisfied with his third position in qualifying.

“I was reasonably happy with the car, so actually quite disappointed to be third because it’s been otherwise a strong weekend, and I thought we could fight for the pole,” he said. “But I think Red Bull and Max just had a bit of an upper hand in the qualifying spec.”

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