Lewis Hamilton fears 'limited' Mercedes have 'gone backwards' after Baku practice pace

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have been left ‘scratching their heads’ again ahead of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Red Bull outpaced them across both practice sessions on Friday.

Hamilton had to settle for P7 and P11 across the two sessions, with teammate Valtteri Bottas languishing down in 10th and 16th.

By contrast, rivals Red Bull, who lead the standings, had both drivers top the timing sessions – with Max Verstappen fastest in the first session and Sergio Perez quickest in the second.

Mercedes were looking to bounce back from a poor weekend in Monaco, where Hamilton finished seventh after struggling with getting heat into his tyres, while teammate Bottas retired mid-race.

But the seven-time world champion was left perplexed by their relative lack of pace, and admitted concerns ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

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Hamilton lost the lead of the drivers’ standings in Monaco as Verstappen opened up a four-point gap after taking victory in Monte Carlo.

It was a weekend that Mercedes had hoped they could learn from.

Hamilton added: “It’s impossible to say [if we learned anything from Monaco] at the moment.

“Pace-wise, we’ve not gone anywhere forwards, if anything today it looks like we’ve gone backwards, but I don’t really know – we’ll wait and see.”

After no points last time out, Bottas echoed his team-mate’s words.

“It was very tricky for us, clearly lacking pace,” agreed the Finn.

“The balance is not that far off. OK, the car is maybe a bit unpredictable, it feels like no grip and it’s sliding around.

“It was tougher [than we thought it would be]. Monaco wasn’t easy but at least we were more or less there by the time of qualifying.

“Now we seem quite a bit off, it definitely has been a more challenging day than we anticipated.”

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