Mercedes engineers believe their team made more problems for itself in the Austrian Grand Prix, after finding Lewis Hamilton’s car damage was a result of parts deteriorating.
Hamilton was running second to Max Verstappen after clearing Lando Norris in the first part of the race and looked set to at least limit the damage as Red Bull dominated in Austria, but then started to slow after picking up damage. The defending champion was told he’d sustained damage to the rear of the car over the curbs at the final corner, but trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says it was simply a case of old parts failing to withstand the demands of another race.
“I think we would have been satisfied with a second and a third, which is realistically the best we could have done,” Shovlin said. “We were the makers of our own issues a bit with the poor qualifying, so that made it very very difficult to be even thinking about challenging Max; and I think in reality his pace was too strong that even if Lewis had stayed behind him we wouldn’t have troubled him.
“So the car’s not been working well, but then we had damage on Lewis’ car with some of the deterioration of the aero bits on the rear ‘cake tin’ (that encloses the brake discs) and that cost him a lot of performance, which is ultimately what dropped him from second to fourth. So overall a bit frustrating, really, from a performance point of view and the fact we need to keep the car in one piece.”
Given the fact the two Mercedes drivers had to recover from fourth and fifth on the grid, Shovlin says the fact Lando Norris was able to get in the mix at the front highlights a lack of raw pace from the W12 on a track with the Red Bull Ring’s characteristics.
“Well, we haven’t been particularly strong (in Austria) in general. That isn’t so much evident in the gap Red Bull, but just the pressure we were under really with McLaren. Lando did a great job, ended up ahead of us. Some of that is the track isn’t suiting the car, and we’ve not made any real inroads to that over the two races here, so that feels like a bit of a longer-term thing to look at.
“Then also that very soft compound wasn’t giving us as much in the hot conditions on Saturday as we were getting from it on Friday. There’s another question there, but it wasn’t so much that we did anything obviously wrong, but when you look at where the performance was we’d have to acknowledge that there’s something we’re doing that isn’t right.”