Chips are down for Lewis Hamilton in Monaco

McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium crashes into a wall during the qualification at the Monaco Grand Prix. Picture: AP
McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium crashes into a wall during the qualification at the Monaco Grand Prix. Picture: AP
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Lewis Hamilton has admitted he was left so devastated by his performance in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix he was unable to get out of his Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton has admitted he was left so devastated by his performance in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix he was unable to get out of his Mercedes.

Hamilton is set to start tomorrow’s race from a lowly 13th after a bizarrely off-colour performance in which he struggled for balance with the handling of his car.

The triple world champion arrived at the principality bidding to join childhood hero Ayrton Senna on 65 pole positions – 30 years after the Brazilian secured his first of a record six wins here – but after going fastest in opening practice, Hamilton has slid back down the order, and his erratic display yesterday was that of a man struggling for confidence.

Hamilton endured two hairy moments where he almost collided with the barriers, first at Massenet and then on the exit of Casino Square, before he claimed something was not right with his car.

And his last-gasp attempt to make it into the top-ten shootout was destroyed when Stoffel Vandoorne lost control of his McLaren and crashed into the wall at the swimming pool chicane.

Hamilton, behind the Belgian on track, had to slow right down, and with the allocated time over, the Briton was left with no option but to pull into the pits. He qualified 14th, an eye-watering 1.9 seconds off the pace, but will be bumped up one spot with Jenson Button serving a 15-place grid penalty on his return to the sport.

Hamilton took an age to leave his Mercedes cockpit after he arrived back in the garage shaking his head, and while he will take some joy from the fact that it is Kimi Raikkonen who starts on pole for the first time since the 2008 French Grand Prix, and not his championship rival Sebastian Vettel, he knows he will have it all to do in tomorrow’s race with overtaking almost impossible at this most twisty and narrow of tracks.

“I was devastated after the session to the point that I could not get out of the car,” said Hamilton, whose Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified third.

“So much energy and work goes into these weeks, collectively as a team and individually the way you prepare yourself. So when you see the other car was able to get it to work, and for the life of you can’t think why you are not able to, it feels like a mystery because none of us can really understand it.

“When you don’t get into Q3, your weekend is pretty much done. And it is really about trying to recover as much as you can.

“Everyone at the factory is working so hard. They rely on me to get it together and today somehow I wasn’t able to. We stand together. And tomorrow I will try everything I can to get up as high as possible. It is very difficult to overtake. We will probably have to take some risks.”

Hamilton is six points behind Vettel in his quest for a fourth title, but it seems highly probable that the Ferrari driver, who starts alongside Raikkonen on the front row, will extend his championship lead.

Indeed it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Ferrari will do their best to ensure it is Vettel and not Raikkonen – a distant fourth in the title race – who prevails tomorrow.

But pole-sitter Raikkonen said. “I don’t know why people expect that it is something different tomorrow than it’s been the last two years. Nothing has changed.”

Vettel added: “We’re here to race, and we’re here to race each other.”

Button meanwhile, qualified an impressive ninth on his comeback, but will start last as punishment for a series of changes to his Honda engine.

Monaco Grand Prix is live on Channel 4 from 1pm on Sunday.