Lewis Hamilton’s struggles continued as he failed to make the cut in Q1 in qualifying in Saudi Arabia.
His team and the former world champion will be concerned as not only was he well down on the leaders - Carlos Sainz topped the initial run ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second and third went to Charles Leclerc ahead of the second run - but George Russell was in touching distance, in fourth place.
Hamilton however struggled throughout, telling his team that he, ‘Can’t seem to improve,’ midway through the first runout.
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Video clips showed that he had struggled to get his car handling cleanly around the corners in some of his earlier laps.
With three minutes left of his session the German team were able to give him a chance for a desperate last attempt to make sure he finished in the top 15.
It appeared, briefly, that he would be saved at least until Q2, as he finished 15th fastest with his final effort, but with Lance Stroll closing in behind him, he leapfrogged the seven-time champion and sent the Briton out.
That means that Hamilton will start on 16th on the grid on Sunday afternoon, and marks the first time he failed to make Q2 since the Brazilian GP back in 2017.
"I just struggled with the balance of the car," Hamilton said. "Not where we want to be. Unfortunately went the wrong way with the set up."
Hamilton has repeatedly said that his team will struggle to make quick improvements to the car after they had trouble at Bahrain testing, though he was able to finish in third at the Grand Prix a week later. That came as a result of two late Red Bull retirements, but few expected a further decline in performance after Mercedes had a week to work on their current design.
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