Formula One: Hamilton refuses to blame Baku track for qualifying crash

Hamilton makes a pit stop during the Baku qualifying session on June 18, 2016.
Hamilton makes a pit stop during the Baku qualifying session on June 18, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

BAKU (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton insisted that it was his own mistake that caused him to crash out of the third session of qualifying for Sunday's European Grand Prix in Baku.

The defending world champion quelled concerns over the track in the Azerbaijani capital on Friday, and refused to blame the set-up after his error gave him just 10th place on the grid, while Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg stormed to pole position.

Hamilton's accident happened as he came out of a narrow complex of corners around Baku's Old City walls, where he clipped a barrier at turn 11. The impact broke his front suspension.

 

"I don't think Baku bit me, I think I tried to take too much and I tried to bite it - and it didn't work," he said.

"It's me, it's nothing to do with the track and nothing to do with the team. I just wasn't driving well."

Hamilton had topped all three practice sessions, but admitted he was off-form when it came to qualifying.

"I've not too much to say," the Briton said.

"I just wasn't on it... It's a fine line between being on it and not being on it and today was just one of those days.

"I don't have an answer for it, but I will try and make up for it tomorrow. It's always difficult, but I'll give it my best shot.

"The other times were not my fault, but today was my fault so apologies for the team and I'll try and make up for it."

He added that overnight changes to his set-up had made him feel uncomfortable with his car.

"I wasn't getting the groove - one corner was good, one corner was bad. It was the most uncomfortable I have been in the car for a long, long time. I can't really express or understand it exactly.

"I just couldn't get into any rhythm. I'll try to get away from the hustle and bustle here, as early as possible, and get a good night's sleep.

"Then I'll come back tomorrow and try and pick it up."

Rosberg warned that he still expects a serious challenge for victory from Hamilton, who he leads by nine points in the drivers' standings.

The German took advantage of the world champion's calamitous day to claim his third pole of the season.

"Of course, it's going to be Daniel (Ricciardo) and Sebastian (Vettel), Kimi (Raikkonen) and Lewis," he said, when asked who would challenge him on Sunday.

"Never forget him. He can always come back from 10th as he has shown many times this year..."

"I'm sure the race is also going to be very exciting," said Rosberg.

"It's one of the easiest tracks to overtake, so I think there's going to be a lot of changing places.

"Probably a lot of safety cars too, and restarts. So it should be a good show."

Rosberg added that, as a Mercedes driver, he hoped Hamilton could climb through from 10th, but he had reservations.

"On the one side, I'm excited for my team colleagues because they want to have a one-two and it's still possible tomorrow, but it's going to be more difficult now for sure.

"Lewis has shown very often that from 10th he can come back - he did that in Russia."