Mercedes hoping to put poor opening day behind them in Mexico

by Vince Pettit

Despite leading the way in the opening session of the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport team enter the second day of the weekend on the back foot having been outpaced by Scuderia Ferrari and Aston Martin Red Bull in Free Practice 2.

Lewis Hamilton could wrap up the FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ championship this weekend and led the way in Free Practice 1, setting the fastest time of the session on the Soft compound Pirelli’s. For the second session the Brit struggled, managing only the fifth fastest time.

It’s not been a great day, but this is how it usually is for us in Mexico,” said Hamilton at the end of the second session. “We’ve not had any major dramas today, it’s just trying to understand the tyres. From the short run to the long run and with changing track temperatures, it’s hard to pinpoint how exactly to get these tyres working, but that’s the name of the game.

“The car felt quite good in Free Practice 1, but then we made some changes for Free Practice 2 and the track shifted a little bit in terms of grip levels and temperatures and we didn’t really get the set-up quite perfect and I didn’t get a perfect lap in either, so there’s definitely more to come. We’ll be studying that tonight, seeing where we can improve for tomorrow and Sunday.

Teammate Valtteri Bottas had similar struggles, finishing fifth fastest in the first session followed by a small improvement in the second session, finishing fourth place.

“It was not the easiest day for us; the track felt very slippery and I was struggling with the balance of the car in the first session,” explained Bottas.

“We made some improvements for Free Practice 2 and the balance felt a lot better afterwards, but we were still lacking a bit of grip. Both Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be strong on this track, but there’s still a lot of things we can improve for the weekend.

Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm

Like most of the other teams on the grid, Mercedes saw struggles with degradation of the Pirelli tyres due to the combination of low aerodynamic grip and weather conditions.

The softer compounds suffer quite a bit on this tarmac; it was pretty bad last year, but we made some improvements so that this year I was actually able to get a few laps in of the Softs.

However, the Hard tyre I ran, in the end, was pretty solid and more consistent – it makes it quite interesting as we might see a lot of different strategies on Sunday. “

Andrew Shovlin, Chief Race Engineer with Mercedes AMG Motorsport reflected on the performance of the team in 2018 before looking ahead to the rest of the weekend,

“It’s been an interesting day,” said Shovlin. “We didn’t really know what to expect coming here, it had been our worst race last year so we have spent a bit of time trying to understand the issues from 2018.

“Our pace in the first session looked ok but we seem to have slipped backwards a bit going into the second session. We’ve already got a few ideas as to where we may have taken a wrong turn but it’s both single-lap pace and long run degradation that we need to improve.

“We need to get the car sorted before we can start talking about what we can achieve in qualifying and the race – it’s all interesting stuff from an engineering point of view, so we’ll be getting our heads together tonight and see if we can make some progress.”

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