Mercedes AMG Motorsport were fastest again in both Free Practice 1 & 2, with Valtteri Bottas the man on top.
The championship leader has had a promising start to the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with two wins and two second places. Today, the Finn had the edge over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.049s at the end of the afternoon’s session.
Bottas dwelled on what had been an “interesting day” for him and for everyone within the Brackley-based squad.
“It’s always an interesting day when you’re bringing new parts to the car to get a feel for it and see if they bring the performance they should,” Bottas added.
“The car felt really good today, completely different to how it was in winter testing, and it seems like our cornering performance has improved. The balance around the lap is also better, so it looks like we’ve taken the right direction since the winter.
“Today was good, but it’s only Friday and Ferrari are very close. It feels like we’ve made a good step forward, but we need to wait and see what tomorrow holds.”
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile found his Friday “a bit tricky” due to the windy conditions but remains content that his team can tune the car to the best of its abilities come Saturday.
“It was quite windy on track today and it was a bit tricky with the grip levels on the three different tyres, but we got through our programme and now have lots of data to analyse tonight and then fine tune the car for tomorrow,” Hamilton said.
“Everyone worked really hard to bring the new package here and a huge amount of effort has gone into it. It seems like it’s working, but it’s hard to feel it because this track is so different to the streets of Baku.
“We’ve got work to do with the balance, but it’s been positive for us to be out there.”
Chief Race Engineer Andrew Shovlin was concerned by Bottas’ excursion over the gravel on the exit of Turn 12 in the morning but even so, he perceived that the twenty-nine year old had the W10 underneath him on the day more than Hamilton.
“It’s no secret that we weren’t very strong at the tests here in winter so we’re happy to have shown reasonable pace on short and long runs today,” Shovlin said happily.
“Valtteri has found the car a bit easier to work with today than Lewis but on both, there’s a few corners where it isn’t as together as we’d like and it’s making it a bit of a handful at time. We had an oil leak on Valtteri’s car in the first session which stopped us before he could do the long run at the end of the session.
“Fortunately, it doesn’t look to have caused any damage and we were able to get back out at the start of the second session. We also had quite a few new bits on the car here, so we’ll also be checking the data from those this evening to confirm it’s all functioning as expected.”