Lewis Hamilton admitted he was surprised at failing to make it the final stage of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, with the McLaren man starting the second race of the year from eleventh on the grid.
Despite a solid showing in practice, Hamilton struggled for pace during the second phase of qualifying with a lack of grip from his Bridgestone tyres and failed to make it through to Q3 – admitting afterwards he was mystified as to why he hadn't had the pace to progress any further.
“Today was a surprise – I wasn't expecting to be out in Q2,” he said. “I felt I got as much as I could out of the car, but I just couldn't get the grip from the tyres.
“On my first run in Q2, I was held up by traffic, so I wasn't able to do a quick lap. I pitted early, got a clear lap, but still struggled to find time in the final sector – even with new tyres. I don't know what the reason for that was.
“So I didn't have a great day, but it's encouraging to see Jenson doing such a good job. Hopefully, we'll both have a good race tomorrow.”
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted that Hamilton's lack of pace had led to head scratching in the garage, but said he was still confident that the 2008 title winner would enjoy a strong race.
“Lewis put in a decent lap in Q1, but never felt comfortable with his car in Q2 and consequently failed narrowly to squeeze into Q3,” he said. “That was a bit of a surprise to all of us, Lewis included, but we know what a competitive individual he is and there's therefore no reason why he, too, shouldn't have a good race tomorrow.”