SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA (REUTERS) - Lewis Hamilton sounded resigned to falling further behind in the Formula One title race after qualifying only fourth on Saturday (July 3) for the Austrian Grand Prix with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen on pole position.
Mercedes' seven-times world champion, the sport's most successful driver of all time, is 18 points adrift of the young Dutch driver after eight races.
Hamilton finished second to Verstappen at the same circuit in last weekend's Styrian Grand Prix, when he had qualified on the front row, and he said Sunday would be even more of a challenge.
"We continue to lack pace, we've tried everything to get more out of the car and it's just the underlying pace that is where we're at, at the moment," the Briton told Sky sports television.
Asked if a win was out of the question, Hamilton agreed it looked that way.
"I would say so. In terms of pure pace it's definitely out of the question.
"They've got three tenths on us, I think they've improved their car again this weekend. So I would say that's an easy cruise win for Max.
"I think for us it's to try and see if we can get ahead of at least Perez, try to limit the damage this weekend," he added.
Verstappen's Mexican team mate Sergio Perez qualified third, behind McLaren's Lando Norris.
Hamilton's day had started more positively with the announcement that the 36-year-old was staying at Mercedes for two more years, ending talk of any retirement at the end of the season.
"It's my family. I've been with Mercedes since I was 13 so it's pretty easy to continue," he said.