Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes has made progress after topping Friday afternoon practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, but expects Red Bull to have more in hand to show on Saturday.
Red Bull dominated the first race at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, with Max Verstappen taking pole position and a comfortable victory to give his team its fourth win in a row. Hamilton predicted there was a quarter of a second difference between the two teams on that occasion, and while he believes Mercedes has taken a step forward on Friday for the second race at the same venue — where he was over 0.2s clear of Verstappen — he says Red Bull still holds an advantage.
“I mean, they’ve definitely got something extra in their bag, I already know that,” Hamilton said. “I think we’ve made some small progress today, but I think they still have the two tenths or maybe it’s a tenth and a half, something like that.
“We’ve definitely made some small steps forward but not enough to close the two tenths. But over a single lap, that felt OK and I just expect them to turn up a little bit more tomorrow.
“They’ve almost basically got the qualifying mode that we used to have and I asked the guys, ‘I don’t understand where they get it from.’ But it’s impressive and we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match it tonight.
“I’m pretty sure it stays the same — whatever gap they’re going to have tomorrow is usually the gap they seem to have on the Sunday, but we’ll be pushing, trying to make that gap as small as possible and if we can improve the car at all tonight, then great. I would like to think that our long run was OK — I’m going to have to go and have a look now.”
Hamilton has been spending more time in the simulator in recent weeks in order to try and find any way of closing the gap to Red Bull, despite not liking the equipment. And he says the setup he started the weekend with based on the simulator work proved to be the wrong one.
“What I learned in the sim was what we started with and it wasn’t good, so we had to come back on a few changes. There are a couple of things that I tried at the end, which we were going to use, test, while we’re here but there’s just not enough time, so I think that’s been the positive. Other than that, I’ve been trying things that I didn’t try in the sim.”