Tyre choice and engine delay prove costly for Lewis Hamilton

MONTREAL, Canada -- With the benefit of hindsight, Mercedes would have brought more sets of hyper-soft tyres to the Canadian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton struggled to hook up a clean lap in qualifying.

Hamilton will start the race from fourth on the grid after mistakes in qualifying left him 0.232s off pole position. He believes that gap could have been eradicated by a cleaner run through Turn 10 -- at which he locked a front brake on both attempts -- but also believes Mercedes' preparation for the weekend put him on the back foot.

Unlike rivals Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes brought just five sets of hyper-soft tyres to Canada per car, meaning they did not have enough to test the qualifying compound on Friday. That meant Hamilton had to wait until final practice to get an understanding of how the tyres perform and ultimately he struggled to extract the same performance gain as his rivals from the softer rubber.

The decision to bring just five sets had to be made at the beginning of the year and was based on a post-season test at the end of 2017 in Abu Dhabi. However, with the information the team now has on the hyper-soft compound after further testing and a race in Monaco, Hamilton said it would have made a different choice.

"I think we will look back on this weekend and we are accepting the fact that, yeah, in hindsight, it would have been nice if we had more time to prepare on the hyper-soft, but it wasn't the case," he said. "From the testing we had in Abu Dhabi particularly, that's what led us to the decisions we made, and we stick with those. We did the best we could with it.

"I think it was just a combination of things. When we got to qualifying, honestly we knew it was going to be very close as it was, but in my heart, I truly feel like we had the pace to lock out the front row, or at least I had the pace to be on the front row. Just struggled in the session and wasn't able to pull it through. You can't win them all, and I'll try to recover from it tomorrow."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the nature of the competition at the front of the grid -- the top three were covered by 0.173s -- meant the smallest disadvantage had a big impact on grid position and the combination of the tyre choice and a decision not to delay an engine upgrade on reliability grounds cost Mercedes in qualifying.

"The fact is that this is a championship that is going to be won or lost with the tiniest of margins," Wolff said. "Suddenly having not given the drivers enough track time on the hyper-soft is something that if we could have changed it now on the weekend, we would have changed it. We've just started to drive on the hyper today. Was that the decisive factor? Probably not. There were many factors.

"Had we brought the engine upgrade, it would have been an advantage. In so far, we just can't miss out of the tiniest of upgrades, and for the smallest of mistakes, we will be penalised. The same applies for our competitors. In so far, this is going to make the difference between winning and losing the weekend. I'm personally of the opinion that if we can optimise on one set of tyres and it will eventually be the tyre on which you qualify, it will give you an advantage, whatever that is."

But Hamilton still believes pole position was lost in his mistakes at Turn 10 alone after struggling to get to grips with his car on Saturday afternoon.

"Yesterday the car balance was great into Turn 10 and usually the last sector is my strongest at this track, but I was just struggling with massive bumps into Turn 10. Today I think we had a couple of small lock ups, but as you continue to push the setup there are areas that can be affected. Constantly today going into that corner I was struggling to get the car stopped, be it front locking or rear locking, so it was quite messy.

"I need to look into it to see exactly what it is, but there was a good chunk of time there -- definitely in that corner alone there was pole position for sure if I'd figured out how to fix it. I'm hoping tomorrow that we are still in a good position and our long runs yesterday were really good. It will be interesting to see how the Red Bull does as well and hopefully we can push and apply the pressure."