Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Chief Race Engineer Andrew Shovlin revealed that the team is looking at Friday sessions as chances to work on 2018 development, having already won both the World Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships.
The team has been dominant in 2017, taking both titles just weeks apart and with races to spare, and with second place all but decided in favour of Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes are looking ahead to get a head-start on next year.
The 2018 season will see some considerable changes, including the addition of the Halo safety device and a new tyre compound. Shovlin says that, whilst the team is still focused on winning the remaining races, trying to get information to use next year is also on the cards. Speaking on both next year and their result at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Shovlin commented, “We’ve come into these final races with an eye on using Friday running for 2018 development but our desire to win races hasn’t diminished and it’s a shame to leave here without the win.”
Mercedes arrived in Sao Paulo looking strong, and could have taken both front row positions in qualifying were it not for a first-lap crash from Lewis Hamilton. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was able to set the fastest time, though was unable to convert this into a win following wheel spin at the start of the race.
“It was a frustrating result for both of our drivers and for the team, although it’s also a day that is easy to take positives from.” Shovlin said. “With Valtteri the race win was decided by the smallest of margins, a little too much wheel spin off the line gave up the lead, an undercut that almost worked but in the end we were just a couple of tenths from making it happen.
“After a great lap to secure pole, it’s always going to be disappointing to come away with anything less than a win but he has had a very solid weekend and did a good job managing the tyres on a track that was up at 60°C and showed pace in the race that looked every bit as fast as Vettel.”
Following his qualifying crash and failure to set a time, Hamilton had to start from the pit lane. This could have proved disastrous for his race, however an early safety car helped him to make the most of a different strategy and find his way to the front. He fought up from twentieth to fourth, and looked like he could have challenged for the podium were it not for a lock-up following Kimi Raikkonen into turn one.
“For Lewis, to start from the back and finish just five seconds off the leader is a great achievement but also frustrating that we didn’t quite make it to the podium. He drove an attacking race but to do so was pushing the tyres to the limits on both sets.
“We stayed out on the soft as long as we could but once we started to lose the rears, we had to come in for the super-soft and we couldn’t afford to manage those, so he was pushing hard from the word go, trying to reel in the leaders. However, we can take some comfort in the fact that our car was the fastest today on what was the hottest track of the year, which shows the progress we have made with the W08.
“It’s been a tough weekend for the team but we are good at learning from tough weekends. We are looking forward to Abu Dhabi, it’s a great track that should suit our car and we’ll go there looking to finish what has been a long but amazing season on a high.”