Toto Wolff makes grim Mercedes admission as Lewis Hamilton left ‘hurting’ at Belgian GP

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MERCEDES duo Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton have reflected on a tough qualifying session ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

F1 preview: A lap of the Belgian Grand Prix

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Toto Wolff has admitted there is “not one positive” Mercedes can take from their “worst qualifying session in 10 years” following an underwhelming showing at Spa on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton echoed the sentiments of his boss, insisting he is “hurting” after discovering that his fastest time on the track was a staggering 1.8 seconds slower than that of Max Verstappen who was forced to relinquish his pole position due to a penalty.

The Red Bull racer is one of seven drivers hit with a grid sanction for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix and will start the race from down in 15th. Despite Mercedes being handed an opening amid the mass punishments, Hamilton and team-mate George Russell will begin the Grand Prix from fourth and fifth respectively.

Mercedes boss Wolff gave a grim assessment of the performance, labelling the qualifying session the “worst” he has witnessed in his time at the team’s helm. A despondent Silver Arrows boss confessed: “It is the worst qualifying session I’ve had in 10 years.

“Irrespective of what positions we are going to start, being on pole at the last race in Hungary and then three weeks later, being nowhere is not acceptable. The car is draggy on a straight line. Lewis said it is like dragging a parachute behind him. There is not one positive I have heard about how the car performs.”

READ MORE: Max Verstappen sets target after penalty drops him to the back of grid

Toto Wolff makes grim Mercedes admission as Lewis Hamilton left 'hurting' at Belgian GP

Mercedes duo Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton were both left dejected after Belgian GP qualifying (Image: GETTY/SKY SPORTS)

A stunned Hamilton was only slightly more upbeat regarding the team’s performance, insisting Mercedes must remain “optimistic” heading into Sunday despite it “hurting” to see his team struggle to such a shocking extent. The deflated seven-time F1 world champion said: “I tried everything. I put everything on the car and I took everything off. I changed wings. I changed setups. But I never thought that we would ever be two seconds off so it is way, way worse than I thought it would be.

“I don’t want to use the word disappointing because you have to remember the 2,000 people at the factory who are working so hard to get it right. Of course, I wish we got it right and we brought the upgrades that pushed us forward and we are fighting at the front.

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Toto Wolff makes grim Mercedes admission as Lewis Hamilton left 'hurting' at Belgian GP

Wolff branded Mercedes’ qualifying showing as the “worst” he had witnessed in ten years (Image: GETTY)

“It hurts. Believe me, it hurts. But at this point you have to laugh it off. I am not fighting for a championship. I cannot get too serious and too low. I have a responsibility to keep morale high. Yes, it sucks and it is slow, really slow, but we are starting fourth tomorrow, and we may have a chance to get a podium, who knows? We have to stay optimistic.”

With Verstappen set to start from 15th having been penalised for exceeding his number of allocated engine parts, Carlos Sainz will head the field on Sunday having put in the second fastest qualifying time in Spa – some 0.632 seconds adrift of the reigning world champion. The Dutchman’s nearest championship challenger Charles Leclerc will start one place further back in 16th having been penalised for using his fourth power unit of the season.

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