MONACO (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton declared himself ‘devastated’ on Saturday after failing to qualify his Mercedes in the top half of the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.
The disappointment of setting only the 14th fastest time, even if he will start the race in 13th place, was crushing on a sunny afternoon when the Briton’s Ferrari rivals swept the front row.
So much so, that he stayed in the car long after it had been pushed back into the team’s garage at the end of the second session.
“I get over things relatively quick but I was devastated after the session,” the triple world champion, who is six points behind Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel after five races, told reporters.
”To the point that I couldn’t get out of the car.
“Everyone’s working back at the factory so hard and they rely on me to get it together and today somehow I wasn’t able to,” added the two-times Monaco winner.
Hamilton, whose team mate Valtteri Bottas qualified third behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel, said he had been unable to get the tyres working in the required temperature window.
The fact that Bottas had clearly managed to do so, as was the case in Russia where the Finn took his first Formula One race win on a day of struggle for Hamilton, made it all the more galling.
“At the moment it is a big unknown but a lot of analysis will go into trying to understand it. It is a tyre issue, I didn’t get the grip from the tyres,” said Hamilton.
“We had a little bit of a similar scenario in Sochi, particularly on my side.”
Hamilton said it was baffling how one car could have the tyres working and the other not, and hoped Bottas could win on Sunday to limit the damage on a track where overtaking is extremely difficult.
The rules have changed this year, with wider cars and fatter tyres, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff described the Mercedes as a “bit of a diva” when it came to getting into the performance window.
“You can see that on his lap, the car drops in and drops out,” he said. “Unfortunately mostly out of it.”
Hamilton had said earlier in the week that he liked the challenge of a car that was difficult to drive and that he likened to a bull or bucking bronco.
“It’s the same kind of feeling when you get in this car. It’s not easy but it’s a challenge,” he had said. “There are cars in the past that have been beautiful to drive and have been a lot easier to set up. I like that this is a challenge.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar