Andrew Shovlin felt it was an ‘interesting day’ at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Friday as the newly resurfaced track caused the soft Pirelli tyres to suffer more than they were expected to.
Shovlin saw Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finish first and second in the opening session on Friday morning before the duo switched places in the afternoon, with Mercedes AMG Motorsport more than half a second up on the closest challenger, which was Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
However, the new tarmac at Paul Ricard was causing the soft tyre to struggle, and it was clear early on that Mercedes’ rear grip in particular was not as good as it should have been, so changes were necessary in between the two sessions.
“It’s been an interesting day from the point of view of the tyres and the car performance,” said Shovlin. “All the cornering regions of the circuit have been recently resurfaced and it was clear that the Soft tyre was suffering quite badly on the new tarmac.
“Our pace looked pretty good, but the balance was really messy due to poor grip from the rear tyres. We made some changes over the break to help calm the car down and both drivers felt it was better in the afternoon.”
Both drivers found the car better to drive in the afternoon thanks to the changes, although only one – Bottas – had a clean run on the soft tyre in a Qualifying simulation as Hamilton made a mistake on his run just prior to a misfire that saw him lose some valuable track time as a fix was put into place.
Hamilton was able to get out for some long runs later in the session but despite comfortably finishing at the top of both sessions, Shovlin still feels there is work to do to improve the balance of the W10, particularly at the rear of the car.
“Valtteri had a clean session, his pace on low fuel was good and the long run was consistent,” said Shovlin. “Lewis was finding it a bit harder to get the balance of the car in the right place and he made a mistake on his Soft tyre run.
“We would have continued on that tyre, but we detected a misfire shortly after and brought the car in to investigate. We were able to get back out to do some long run work after fixing the issue and the car looked to be working well for Lewis on race fuel.
“We have a bit of work to do tonight to see if we can further improve the rear end, but we seem to have a decent car to work with. So, overall we are quite happy.”