RED BULL and Ferrari continued to pile the misery on Mercedes in a chaotic qualifying in Imola that was stopped FIVE times.
Lewis Hamilton only just scraped into 13th place for Saturday’s sprint race while teammate George Russell will start in 11th.
Hamilton’s hopes of securing a record eighth world title are left hanging by a thread as he stands a whopping 43 points behind leader Charles Leclerc in the championship.
Current world champion Max Verstappen is a further two points adrift after failing to finish in Bahrain and Australia – but the Dutchman will start the sprint on pole ahead of Ferrari’s Leclerc.
Hamilton, who only made it into the top 15 after beating AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in Q1 by just 0.004 seconds, said: “It wasn’t a great session.
“The feeling is disappointment. We came here with optimism. Everyone has worked hard at the factory. It is disappointing.
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“I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things we should have done that we did not do.”
When asked what he’d be speaking to Merc boss Toto Wolff after in his debrief, Hamilton added: “It is internal stuff, I’d rather not share that. We will keep working. Each weekend is a rescue.”
Saturday’s 30-minute sprint race is F1’s latest attempt to spice up the action but it was a good old downpour that contributed to the drama here.
New FIA race director Niels Wittich took no chances at the famous track that saw tragedies for Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger back in 1994.
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Every time someone hit the barriers or had an issue with their car, Wittich thumped the stop button.
It made for a stop-start session but one that leaves things poised for a thrilling fight between Verstappen and Leclerc today.
The final red flag which brought an early end to a rain-sodden day was caused by McLaren’s Lando Norris, who duffed his McLaren into the barriers.
Ironically as his error sent everyone for an early bath, he secured his third place on the grid as he continued his solid recovery for McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton (pictured) will start 13th while Mercedes teammate George Russell is 11th[/caption]
He said: “I am happy to be in the top three, which is a surprise for us, but there was a lot left in the lap.
“There was a chance to have a go at Charles as there was a possibility for us to go for more.
“It is going better and better for us although it is difficult to say if these wet conditions made things different.
“If it was completely dry, we would not be in third place but we have given ourselves the best opportunity to score some good points.”