Hamilton and Mercedes must 'take a beating' to chase Red Bull and Ferrari

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes know they must "take a beating" in order to recover the lost ground they trail Red Bull and Ferrari by ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion will start seventh on the grid following another disappoint qualifying session in Baku, while team-mate George Russell will start in fifth.

Mercedes have remained dramatically off the pace of their rivals, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc sealing a fourth consecutive pole position in his title race with Max Verstappen.

Hamilton – who won on this track in 2018 – admitted he and his team are continuing to draw the same conclusions from their struggles, in what could be a bad omen for their prospects over the rest of the season.

"I'm not surprised [about the gap], I mean it was the same in Monaco," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really difficult qualifying session, we're constantly pushing.

"We have a very, very small window where we can work this car and everything we try doesn't give us what we want.

"So, we're making lots of changes, but we're always out with the same conclusion, which is most often bouncing, which loses us a lot of performance.

"All the performance is when you get the car low… so we said let's take a beating in our necks and backs to get the car as low as possible for the performance."

Russell, who is out to better his best-ever 15th-place finish at the circuit, posted in 2019, suggested improvements were harder to decipher from within the cockpit.

"The lap felt good, the car felt good but obviously it is pretty shocking when you cross the line and you are one and a bit seconds behind pole position," Russell said.

"We expect so much of ourselves and we are working so hard to bring more performance, but definitely this weekend has brought out the strengths and the weaknesses of all of us.

"To be honest, it truly is just not going fast enough.

"It feels ok from within, except when we are going down the straights because every single bump is the most rigid I have ever felt from any race car before.

"In the breaking zones, it is so bumpy down those straights and feels awful from within but through the corners itself the car feels good.

"So we know it isn't a balance thing getting the car in the right window with the set up, it is more we don't have the downforce and we are balancing a lot of limitations to try and get the downforce.

"We know there is a lot there but we don't know how to extract it."

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