Mercedes had a positive start to their 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship campaign, as they took a one-two in both free practice sessions. But they ran controversial innovation DAS, which now sees them under investigation due to a protest from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
Hamilton who topped both free practice sessions revealed his enjoyment of returning to racing, “It’s great to be back. It’s been a long time coming. The new car obviously feels different than the 2018 car we got to test at Silverstone a few weeks ago, but I think we have also been able to continue to improve the car compared to last year, so that’s a big positive.”
However, Hamilton eased on the side of caution due to it being the first few practice sessions of the Austrian Grand Prix.
“The track was a little bit greasy and while the grip will pick up, it feels like the track only improved a very small amount. It was looking good out there today, but you can never take too much from practice. You never know what power and fuel other teams are running. So we will take today’s result with a pinch of salt, try and improve the car tonight and come back for the fight tomorrow.“
Valtteri Bottas also spoke regarding his day during free practice, as he showcased his positive opinions about the day, explaining how much he loved it.
“It’s fantastic to be back in the car. I’ve really enjoyed every single lap, every single run. We’ve been making good progress throughout the day, step by step, as it is to be expected after such a long break. It was a decent day overall, although we had a small problem with my car towards the end.“
Bottas talked of how it was to drive at the Red Bull Ring as the track had a lot of rainfall on it overnight. He explained how this led to adjustments on the car and how this was one of the goals for the day regarding how the car was ready for the rest of the weekend.
“The grip level was pretty low today, but I’m sure the track will ramp up over the course of the weekend. We need to stay on top of that as that can change the set-up quite a bit on this track.
“The main challenge will be to get the balance right for both high-speed and low-speed corners and fine tune the car for that single lap on Saturday, while keeping our race pace in mind as well.
“It’s only Friday, the lap times will come down tomorrow with the track improving, with additional performance items from all the teams and with the drivers pushing hard, so it will be interesting to find out where we stand.“
Shovlin: The team had “a couple of little niggles” despite being top in Practice
Chief Race Engineer for Mercedes Andrew Shovlin revealed that there was a few issues on both, Hamilton and Bottas’ cars despite their success in practice. He explained each of the problems but they were not problems which were major.
“It’s great to be back at the track after such a long time. We have quite a few new developments on the car since it last ran in winter testing, so we’ve had a busy day checking that they were all working as expected.
“We’ve had a couple of little niggles that got in the way of running today for both drivers; Lewis had a telemetry outage at the start of the second session that held us up and Valtteri stopped early after a gearbox problem. We’re still looking into Valtteri’s problem, at the moment we don’t know what has caused it.“
Shovlin talked of previous years, where the team have struggled at the Red Bull Ring, as issues such as track temperature and poor strategy have affected the team’s results, with them only taking third and fifth at the circuit at the 2019 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix.
“This circuit hasn’t been kind to us in recent years, but the car seemed to be working reasonably well from the start this year.
“We’ve still got work to do on the balance but more relevant is that we’re expecting a much hotter track tomorrow that will put the tyres into a different working window.
“Our pace seemed competitive today, but we don’t really know where everyone is in terms of fuel or engine modes and we tend to see everything close up when the temperatures go up.“