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Hamilton disappointed as Mercedes melt and Verstappen triumphs

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes said poor set-up decisions were to blame on Saturday as their hopes melted in the sun as Max Verstappen dashed to victory in the sprint at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion and his team boss Toto Wolff expressed bitter disappointment after arriving in Brazil with high expectations following two strong races in Texas and Mexico. 

But after a sharp start, Hamilton fell from fourth to seventh while team-mate George Russell battled to hang on in fourth place, both struggling on worn tyres as Verstappen cruised home ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull-team-mate Sergio Perez. 

“It was horrible today,” said Hamilton. “Not enjoyable whatsoever. I had a good start, but I was fighting the car from early on with understeer and oversteer and then I had no tyres in the end.

“And now I don’t know how we can fix that for tomorrow…. It’s going to be a long afternoon. I went for the wrong set-up, I assume, and it is what it is, but I’ll fight as hard as I can. We won’t be winning tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

Wolff, in a testy mood, said: “We had a great start and pushed hard, but after that it was clear the car was not balanced right. We were sliding and that killed the tyres. 

“The rear was set up too weak and the car was on a knife’s edge on these tyres… It was a bruising day.”

He waved aside mentions of his team’s previous sprint race successes including last year’s win by George Russell. “Well, I don’t care about the past and today it wasn’t good.” 

Russell said he felt the race, run in temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius (air) and 46 degrees on the track, was “confusing and disappointing”. 

“It wasn’t there for us today when we expected a lot, but the conditions are different tomorrow and that can change everything. 

“Max finished 25 seconds ahead on a 24-lap race. But tomorrow will be different – it will be three degrees cooler and that’s everything.”

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