Hamilton hopes punctured by Australian Grand Prix practice as Mercedes frustration grows

By Sports Desk April 08, 2022

Lewis Hamilton conceded that any optimism for the Australian Grand Prix had been quashed after Ferrari again dominated Mercedes in practice in Melbourne.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton was fortunate to edge onto the podium in Bahrain's season opener, with Mercedes' problems with their new W13 design well-documented.

More problems followed for the 37-year-old and his team in Saudi Arabia, where Hamilton fell to his first performance-related Q1 elimination since 2009 and Mercedes failed to make the top five on the grid for the first time since the 2013 Italian Grand Prix.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff warned not to expect any "magic fix" for their new W13 car 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height, and the practice sessions at Albert Park have left much to ponder.

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell finished well behind a Ferrari one-two of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the first practice, and things did not improve in the second session when Russell was 11th quickest and Hamilton a lowly 13th.

Both Mercedes drivers were again well behind Leclerc, and Hamilton, who finished more than one and a half seconds off the pace, accepted Sunday will be a struggle.

"I feel good, I feel okay. It was just a difficult session," he told Sky Sports. "You go in very optimistic, you make changes, and it doesn't seem to be wanting to improve.

"We made some changes going into FP2; FP1 was better, and FP2 ended up being a bit harder, so it's tricky. I don't think it'll be tricky to find our way back, there's just not a lot we can do. This is the way it is, so we just have to drive with it.

"We're trying to push, trying to catch, and even when you do a decent lap, it's 1.2s down."

Russell, who is fourth in the drivers' championship despite not making the podium in his opening two races, echoed Hamilton's frustrations.

"We're not in the position that we want," Russell said. "There's quite a few midfield cars ahead of us, and we're quite a long way off the pace. We need to work hard tonight and understand the limitations [of the car].

Asked if he was still enjoying driving, Russell added: "Driving is always cool, [but] you enjoy it more when you're on top of the timesheet!

"When you think you've done a good lap and then you look at the timesheet and see that you're down in P11, it's not where we want to be as a team. It's all about results."

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  • Quartararo laments 'rookie mistake' after double crash at Dutch TT Quartararo laments 'rookie mistake' after double crash at Dutch TT

    Fabio Quartararo lamented a "rookie mistake" after twice crashing at the Dutch TT to see the 2022 MotoGP title race blown wide open again.

    The Monster Energy Yamaha rider's lead over Aleix Espargaro at the top of the standings was cut from 34 points to 21 after failing to finish Sunday's race in Assen.

    After a near blemish-free season up to this point, reigning world champion Quartararo uncharacteristically clattered into Espargaro early on when pushing for second place.

    Both riders ended in the gravel, but whereas Espargaro was able to make up significant ground to finish fourth, Quartararo again came off his bike on lap 12.

    He lost grip on his rear tyre and was sent flying over his handlebars in a nasty fall, with this his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia 2020.

    Quartararo apologised to Espargaro immediately after the race, which was won by Francesco Bagnaia, and took full blame for the contentious incident.

    "I made a rookie mistake. I wanted to push too much from the beginning," he told Canal+. "I apologise to Aprilia and to Aleix for putting him out of the track.

    "It's with these mistakes that you learn for the future, but it was a really stupid mistake. We could very well have set a very good pace and fought for the win. 

    "These are mistakes that you learn from for the future. I wanted to restart and try to score some points, but I saw that the bike was a problem. 

    "I stopped, the team told me to restart in case of rain, but when I restarted, I could see that something was wrong.

    "I tried, but I don't know [what happened]. We have to analyse the crash, but I lost the rear a bit abruptly, so we'll see what they say. I made a rookie mistake."

    Despite seeing his lead cut, Quartararo still holds a healthy advantage at the top of the riders' standings heading into the five-week break.

    Espargaro produced the ride of the day – and one of the best individual rides of the season – to recover from 15th after being sent off the track by his title rival.

    The Aprilia rider overtook Jack Miller and Brad Binder on the final lap to finish just outside the podium places, but he could not make a serious dent in Quartararo's title lead. 

    "I was very strong in that place, and Fabio knew it," Espargaro said of the early collision. "The reason Fabio did his movement is because his feeling with the bike is super-high. 

    "We saw it also in Germany, corner one with [the overtake on Bagnaia]. He's not a dirty rider, but his confidence is that high.

    "Today, it's not that he was arrogant. But because he felt super, a lot faster than the rest, he made a bad judgment.

    "I knew this could happen. From this moment I said to myself – Fabio is almost perfect, he made no mistakes during the season, so if he makes one mistake you have to profit."

    Ducati's poleman Bagnaia led from the start to move back to within 66 points of Quartararo with nine rounds to go.

    The Italian, who is fourth in the championship, now has three wins and three retirements in his past six races.

    Bagnaia never looked like relinquishing first place to Marco Bezzecchi, although he admitted to being "terrified" of a third DNF in a row when rain hit late on in the Netherlands.

    "Looking at the gap with Bezzecchi, he was always catching," Bagnaia said. "I had to push again, I had to open this gap again to be smarter and more calm again later in the race.

    "But then the rain came. When I saw the rain, I just slowed down a bit, but Bezzecchi was pushing again.

    "So, it was very difficult. I was terrified to crash again, so the main thing was to finish the race. It wasn't easy, but I tried to be smart, I tried to not push over the limit."

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch TT

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch TT, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, was not able to join his Ducati team-mate on the podium as he failed to catch Maverick Vinales – his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

  • Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP Bagnaia reignites title hopes as Quartararo crashes out of dramatic Dutch GP

    Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch Grand Prix, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

    Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    It was not quite an all-Ducati podium as Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, could not catch Maverick Vinales as he claimed his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

    TOP 10

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

    Teams

    1. Aprilia Racing 213
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

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