Mercedes was experimenting with its car during Friday practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix according to George Russell, but Lewis Hamilton says the swings in performance are perplexing.
The Hungaroring was never expected to suit the Mercedes car but there were still eyebrows raised when Russell ended FP2 in eighth place and Hamilton 11th, more than a second off the pace of Ferrari. From Hamilton’s perspective, there was also lost running due to floor damage late in the session and he says the weekend looks like it will be a difficult one.
“The car is a bit of a struggle today, it’s crazy how it swings so much from track to track,” Hamilton said. “But (the focus is) just setup, just trying to figure out how we can get the car working at the moment. It’s a little bit loose and it’s not doing what we want it to do, so a difficult day.
“Nothing’s changed on the car this week and I’m the same driver this week as I was last week, but it’s just for some reason (on) this track, it’s not working as well. But I think once we got it right the gap is about the same as last week — around a second.
“I didn’t get to run at the end because I sustained some damage on my floor so I lost a lot of downforce, and after that it was pretty tricky for the long-run pace. So it’s going to be a tough weekend, that’s for sure, but we’ll give it everything and see what we’ve got.”
Russell agrees that there is confusing performance coming from the W13 in Budapest but insists a lot of focus was on experiments, given the forecast for thunderstorms and heavy rain throughout Saturday and cooler conditions on Sunday.
“Not too sure, to be honest,” Russell said. “Definitely not our smoothest Friday so far — bit of a strange one because we think it’s going to be wet for quali and Sunday the conditions will be drastically different, so we were trying quite a few things with the car, using it as a bit of a test session. Because, to be honest you can try and optimize everything for today but there’s no use for that — it’s all for the rest of the weekend, so even though it was a very tough day it’s probably been a productive one.
“I wouldn’t say (Mercedes has a wet setup), more in the sense of trying things to learn more things about the car, at the expense of maximizing… more just trying to gather the info to help us longer-term.
“We were definitely a little bit further away than we would have expected — a couple of issues here and there. I think tomorrow’s going to be a totally new day, and Sunday will also be a different day, so not lost yet.”