No answers for Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg after Singapore qualifying

Lewis Hamilton said he and Mercedes-GP were baffled by the team’s worst qualifying performance for almost two years.

Singapore qualifying left Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-GP searching for answers as to why they were not able to find enough speed or grip to challenge for the pole.  Diego Azubel / EPA
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SINGAPORE // Lewis Hamilton said he and Mercedes-GP were baffled by the team’s worst qualifying performance for almost two years.

The German marque had claimed pole at every race this season prior to this weekend, but they were out-performed by both Ferrari and Red Bull Racing during Saturday’s qualifying session, having also struggled in practice as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could only set the fifth- and sixth-fastest times.

It was the first time since the United States Grand Prix in November 2013 that a Mercedes had not qualified in the top four on the grid, and world champion Hamilton blamed issues with tyre temperatures for him being more than a second slower than Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

“The problem this weekend is the tyres are just not working for us,” said the Briton, who leads the championship standings by 53 points going into Sunday’s race. “We can’t get it into the window and we are sliding around all over the place.”

Hamilton had taken 11 poles from the first 12 races of the season, but he put a brave face on Saturrday’s disappointment, saying he had relished one of the most competitive qualifying sessions of the year.

“It was a good qualifying and I enjoyed it, but I was on a knife edge to get as much as I could,” he said. “We have the quickest car but cannot utilise it with the tyres.”

Hamilton is in such a comfortable position at the top of the drivers’ standings as he bids to win a third championship that he does not need to win Sunday, but he said that was still his target.

A consolation was that Rosberg, his teammate and nearest championship rival, also struggled, and he starts behind Hamilton on the grid.

With only seven races and a maximum 175 points left to be won, Rosberg is running out of time to make major in-roads into Hamilton’s points advantage, and the German was cautious on his prospects of a strong performance.

“I lacked a lot of grip,” Rosberg said. “Why, I don’t know. We will go for it tomorrow, but we think it will be tough for sure.”​

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