Lewis Hamilton is encouraged by the progress Mercedes has made with its upgrades at the Spanish Grand Prix and believes the team might be able to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes brought changes to its front wing endplates and rear corner bodywork, as well as a floor update that the team says is designed to improve floor performance when it’s running close to the ground. After an encouraging Friday when George Russell was second and Hamilton third in FP2, the seven-time world champion says there has been a noticeable difference when driving the car.
“It’s positive — super happy with the progress so a big, big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for not giving up and for continuing to push,” Hamilton said. “We’re not the quickest, yet, but I think we’re on our way.
“It’s the first time I’ve driven down the straight without bouncing. We still have some bouncing, but it’s way better. So it’s something to eke out a bit of the potential in the car.”
Hamilton says he has confidence there is now the potential to fight with the top two teams if Mercedes continues to improve the setup in Barcelona.
“It’s still tough out there with the car but it’s much nicer than it’s been before. Really grateful for those upgrades, now we need to fine-tune them into the next session, overnight lots of data to go over, try and position the car… I think we can get it into an even better place for tomorrow, so then hopefully we can tackle the heels of the guys up ahead.”
Teammate George Russell topped FP2 in Miami before a tough Saturday saw him drop out of qualifying in Q2, but he’s more hopeful Mercedes can maintain its competitiveness this weekend.
“I see no reason why we can’t be as far away from the front as we showed, if not a little bit closer,” Russell said. “But there’s differences with power modes and stuff — I think Ferrari and Red Bull were in their lowest power mode, so they’ve got a bit on us there. I don’t know, it’s tricky. Degradation was massive for everybody and that’s going to be what makes or breaks this race on Sunday, so that’s going to be what we focus on tonight.”
While the comments are even more positive than in Miami — when Russell admitted Mercedes didn’t know why it was so quick initially in practice — the former Williams driver says there are still some porpoising issues to solve and expects Red Bull to have a clear advantage this weekend.
“I don’t know, to be honest, because in Miami we were quickest on Friday and here we’re second. So let’s see. The car is definitely reacting differently — we’ve got different limitations this time. We definitely don’t have the porpoising on the straight, which is good, but we’re still experiencing a little bit here and there in the corners, which ultimately you need to dial out.
“I think Red Bull still look very, very strong — they look like the team to be reckoned with at the moment. We need to go through the data.”