Hamilton qualified for the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in eighth, nearly a second behind pole-sitter Sergio Perez and more than three tenths behind teammate George Russell who is third, but will gain a place due to Charles Leclerc’s penalty.
The seven-time F1 champion has delivered a blunt admission that his inability to extract performance from his Mercedes, for the second year in a row, is hampering his enjoyment.
“I love this team and I’m so grateful for everyone that’s been on the journey with me,” he said.
“I don’t envisage being anywhere else. I don’t see myself quitting, I don’t feel like I’m a quitter.
“But I wouldn’t say that it’s giving me a lot. I have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, many times.
“I am trying to be patient and work with the team to get us to a good place.
“I’m not planning on going anywhere else but I couldn’t get any more out of the car today. I’ve got to keep trying.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had previously given the honest assessment that Hamilton must look elsewhere if his team can’t deliver a winning car soon. The driver’s contract expires at the end of this season and, although he claimed a new deal was inevitable during the winter, it remains unsigned amid his team’s problems.
Hamilton, now 38, has claimed he will race on until capturing an eighth title, which would be an all-time record, but after only one race in 2023 it already appears impossible to compete with the Red Bulls.
Watching his teammate Russell, who outperformed him last season and gave Mercedes their only win of 2022 in Brazil, made Saturday in Saudi Arabia an even more desperate day for Hamilton.
“George did a great job and he’s right up there on the second row, so the car’s obviously got performance,” said Hamilton.
“But I don’t feel connected to this car. No matter what I do, no matter what I change, I can’t get confidence in it. I’m at a bit of a loss with it.
“I just struggled to extract the performance from the car.”
Asked if a bad day in qualifying had made him more frustrated, he replied: “No, not really. I wouldn’t say so, the car is where it is.”
His prediction for Sunday’s grand prix was: “I wouldn’t hold my breath.”