Lewis Hamilton says he 'just wasn't in the groove' as he crashed out of qualifying for the European Grand Prix, leaving him tenth on the grid and well adrift of title rival and pole sitter Nico Rosberg.
Despite a handful of offs during the course of the weekend as he found the limit of the Baku City Circuit, the defending champion came into qualifying as the hot favourite having commanded a comfortable advantage over Rosberg in all three practice sessions.
However, a mistake at T7 in Q2 – which forced him to qualify with a second lap on flat-spotted tyres – would prelude another error on his first Q3 effort at T15, putting him under pressure with his one and only remaining run.
The pressure would subsequently tell when he clipped the inside wall at T10, breaking the suspension on the W07 and forcing him out of contention. With no quick time on the board, Hamilton will get underway from the fifth row, but remained philosophical about both the error and his race chances.
“I had a fantastic rhythm yesterday and zero today,” he conceded. “Sometimes that happens. I don't think Baku bit me. I think that I tried to take too much and I tried to bite it and it didn't work. It is more me. It is nothing to do with the track. Nothing to do with the team, just not driving well today.”
Suggesting modifications to the W07 overnight didn't help his cause, Hamilton admits the race may be about damage limitation for him compared with Rosberg.
“It is definitely a track where you have to take some chances, but today it was not even about that. It was just not getting the groove – one corner was good, one corner was bad. It was the most uncomfortable I have been in the car for a long, long time.
“I can't really express or understand it exactly. Yesterday was great; some changes over night, and it was not the same today. But, still, I will do what I can with it tomorrow, and try and recover.”
Two wins on the trot have seen Hamilton close the gap to Rosberg to nine points at the head of the standings coming into the Azerbaijan.
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