Lewis Hamilton believes that the Mercedes are “not far away” from being in a winning position after a “hugely encouraging” F1 British GP, as Toto Wolff adds more on upgrade situation.
The seven-time champion scored his third podium of the season at Silverstone after his Mercedes team introduced yet another upgrade to the W13, which he says noticeably improved the car’s race pace. This will largely be down to the departure of the much-maligned porpoising which plagued the car in the early races of the season, and the mechanical bouncing which resulted in running the car so stiffly sprung.
On the smooth and fast Silverstone circuit, the car did not exhibit any form of porpoising or bouncing – unless when expected to on the kerbs – unlike the front-running Ferraris who experienced porpoising in some high-speed corners. Mercedes could therefore run their cars lower to the track surface, which improves the car’s overall aerodynamic performance, enabling Hamilton to battle fiercely with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Teammate George Russell, who had qualified P8 on the damp track – three places behind Hamilton – took a gamble to start on the hard tyres. This caused him to have a poor start alongside Zhou Guanyu and get tangled up with Pierre Gasly and the Alfa Romeo to kick-off the horrific multi-car start crash.
Hamilton’s promising consecutive P3 finishes in Canada and Britain has elevated his confidence level unrecognisably in comparison to his clear dejection at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.
“I think it’s hugely encouraging that we were in the fight [at Silverstone],” said Hamilton. “There were times… for a good period of time I was matching the Ferraris’ pace, and even better at some stages. And we got the quickest lap at the end, for example, which I don’t think we’ve been able to do this year.
“We had an upgrade this weekend and I think the race pace was definitely improved. That’s been our strongest part of our car, I think, this year in general. But it’s definitely helped us get a little bit closer. I don’t think we’re in a winning position yet, but we’re not far away,” summed up Hamilton.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Wolff is optimistic about the car’s improvement at Silverstone, although he reserves his judgement as he points out concerns about the errant nature of the car’s behaviour. “It’s probably both,” he replied when asked whether the progress stems from Silverstone’s characteristics or the new upgrade.
“I think we’ve seen good data on the upgrade that showed us that we’ve gained some relative laptime to the others. But then we mustn’t be fooled, like we were last time around in Barcelona, where we thought we’re on top of the problem when we weren’t.
“Russell had no bouncing on the first set of tyres but 20 minutes later on the second set of tyres he had bouncing,” Wolff reveals. “We can’t correlate that it changes so much between one session to the other, one tyre to the other, there is no indication about setup, the wind, ambient in general, track conditions. None of that.”
The team boss, who is heavily involved in the technical decision making process at Mercedes, explained in depth how the W13’s characteristics as a narrow sidepod package is no longer the issue when it comes to problems extracting performance, claiming that the team could have easily reverted the car back to its Barcelona pre-season testing spec if that was the case.
“We need to continue to develop the W13 because the rules don’t change,” stated Wolff. “So if we were to decide to go to a different concept – I think the base is you need to understand why the previous one hasn’t worked – and that is not an answer we have at the moment. So we just continue grinding away trying to understand, but the narrow sidepods have the least impact on our current problems and on the performance.
“It’s an overall aerodynamic and drive issue rather than just narrow sidepods. We could change that easily.” Ahead of the quick turnaround for this weekend’s Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring, the scene of five victories for Mercedes in the past, Wolff admits it will be “tough” to claim the team’s first victory of the season this time around.
“There’s a few corners which in the past didn’t make our car happy,” he said. “So that’s something we need to look at, but it’s a constant learning curve. I think this season is gonna be a pretty tough one to win, so we just need to get our ducks in a row to be properly on top of the car’s performance.”
Here’s Lewis Hamilton on late tussle