Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull had an advantage of a quarter of a second in race pace at the Styrian Grand Prix but hopes Mercedes’ work will have closed the gap.
Max Verstappen took pole position by a little under 0.2s from Valtteri Bottas, although Hamilton will line up alongside Verstappen as the Finn has a three-place grid penalty. Although unable to match the Red Bull performance in qualifying, Hamilton says he was surprised by how his car felt after being confident in its handling throughout the rest of the weekend.
“It was a difficult session for me,” Hamilton said. “I generally have had a really good weekend so far. Of course, not as quick as Max but I did a lot of work before the event and then the car was feeling great all day yesterday. We’ve just been chipping away at it and each change is just trying to eke out like 10 milliseconds or something.
“And then I got into qualifying and the car just didn’t feel as good as it did in P3. I don’t fully understand it so I wouldn’t say I was particularly that quick in qualifying but nonetheless I am really happy to be where we are.
“The next two tenths is a little bit difficult. They’ve had straight-line speed again here this weekend which is hard for us to compete with but I am really proud of the team for just continuing to push hard, not leaving any stone unturned.”
Hamilton says the race pace deficit was around a quarter of a second on Friday but given how comfortable he felt with the car in FP3 — when he was fastest overall — he believes it could be closer on Sunday.
“I didn’t really have an expectation, I just wanted to have a good session. I wanted to deliver a decent lap. In P3, I did a lap and I was like, ‘That’s the one that I need for Q3,’ and I got nowhere near it; but these things happen.
“We gave it everything and we’ve got a long race tomorrow so I hope that the balance works for us. It’s going to be a tough battle with these guys (Red Bull). I think they’ve generally had the edge throughout the weekend and the analysis last night was that they’re a quarter of a second ahead on long-run pace. I hope through work we’ve closed that gap.”