Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s Lewis Hamilton has said that his “pace was quite far off” what he would have expected following the first two practice sessions ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring this weekend.
Hamilton ran a total of 29 laps for over the course of the first session, setting a time of 1:05.120 which put him fourth on the timing sheets. In the second session he ran 27 laps, his best time being a 1:04.348 which put him sixth.
He said that at the start of both sessions, he felt as though he was performing well, and was on the pace, but saw it starting to drop off as the sessions progressed, adding they will have work to do to see where the problem lies.
“It felt relatively normal out there today, but the pace was quite far off, so we have a lot of work to do this evening to try and figure out why. I was feeling good in Free Practice 1 and the start of Free Practice 2 felt pretty good too, but then it started to drop off. Others out there looked quick and Valtteri has good pace,” said Hamilton.
He added: “It seems like the field is bunching up a bit more, but it’s always tough to read into what happened in practice. We’ve got some work to do, to look into the data and find out what’s going on. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be in a better position. It looks set to be wet tomorrow, but it’s fun to be out there in those conditions so hopefully we can still drive in the rain.”
“I think we have made some progress” – Bottas
The story was more positive for Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas. He was slightly better on pace during the course of both sessions, running 31 laps and setting a 1:05.089 personal best which secured him third position. During the second session in the afternoon, he set a 1:03.703, which gave him second place.
Bottas said he has found it to be a very useful day of running, and they dedicated the first session into trying to find solutions to the reliability issues they experienced last weekend.
“It was a very useful day of practice. We had quite a few things to try after last weekend. Free Practice 1 was mainly looking into whether we had fixed the reliability concerns from last Sunday,” said the Finn.
“The team is still looking into that, but I think we have made some progress. We made some good set-up tweaks and I tried to use the learnings from last weekend, in terms of one-lap pace and driving style over a race distance.
“We are all getting to know this track pretty well now, but still it’s always good fun to be on track here. I still feel really good in the car, which is good news, but in the end the next two days are the ones that count.”
“A busy week” – Shovlin
The team’s chief race engineer, Andrew Shovlin, said the team has spent a lot of time over the past week trying to solve the issues which plagued them last weekend.
“It’s been a busy week in the factory trying to understand and produce a solution for the electrical issues we had throughout last weekend. New looms arrived in time for the car build on Wednesday and they ran successfully today,” he said.
“We’d like a bit more running before we conclude that it’s resolved, but it certainly seems to have improved our situation. On today’s programme, first practice was quite straightforward. We had a few test items on the car, along with some high-downforce parts in preparation for Budapest.”
Shovlin went on to say that things in the second session were a bit different to normal, as all the teams had recieved an email from race director Michael Masi which said that lap times could be used to decide the grid if further running wasn’t able to take place over the weekend.
“The second session wasn’t so simple. We’d all received an email from Michael Masi at the FIA to say that the lap times for Free Practice 2 could be used to make up the grid, in the unlikely event we cannot run on Saturday or Sunday morning. That meant everyone was trying a bit harder, so we dropped the fuel a bit and pulled another set of Softs from Saturday to Friday.”
As rain could well mix things up for the rest of the weekend, Shovlin said it will be interesting to see how the car performs as they have only managed to do limited running in the wet.
“The weather doesn’t look great tomorrow and we’ve hardly run this car in the wet, so it could be an interesting day if conditions allow Qualifying to go ahead,” he said.