Lewis Hamilton reflected on those teams round him after the first day of the race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
After a Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team one-two in the first practice, the silver arrows duo had to deal with the pace from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing duo Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton stated “It’s generally been a good day – I love driving around this track, it’s incredible. Fortunately for us it was dry today, which gave us plenty of time to get a lot of running in and understand the car.
“It’s very close out there between Red Bull and us; I think they might be a little bit quicker even at the moment. Racing Point are also looking strong, they’re right with us as well and so was Daniel in the Renault.
“It’s really close with everyone and we have to understand why – whether they’ve taken a step forwards or we’ve taken a step backwards. So, we’ve definitely got some work to do overnight, dig through the data and try and dial in the car a little more. But it looks like we’ve got an exciting weekend ahead of us.”
Valtteri Bottas, who celebrated his 31st birthday today, topped the first free practice but could only achieve sixth in the second, being nearly half a second off leader Verstappen.
Although it was still a good day for the team, Bottas understands there was some issues that will need ironing out.
“It’s been a good birthday so far for me – I can definitely think of worse things to do on your birthday than driving this track. The first session was good, the second turned out to be a bit more tricky. It was nothing major, and I didn’t get the laps quite right, but I think we might have to revert some set-up changes back to FP1.” Said Bottas.
“We were struggling with understeer all day and didn’t really find a good solution for that. I think once the front end feels a bit stronger and I can get the car into the corners better, we’ll find some lap time.
“Every year you come here, you think ‘how can we possibly go faster than this around this track?’ But then you come back a year later and it’s faster still. The cornering speeds are so high, you feel the g forces – it’s just great fun, I’m really enjoying it.”
Andrew Shovlin, Chief Race Engineer knows there’s a few areas of the car that need extra work on but is hopeful they can make progress on them ready for tomorrow.
“We’ve had new power units in both cars today and some updated bodywork. So far that all appears to be working as expected. The sessions were a bit messy, although it’s always difficult with such a long circuit as you don’t get many laps in each run.” Said Shovlin.
“Both drivers have struggled a bit with the balance, mainly with a weak front end and we looked a bit slower than we normally do on a Friday even when the car seems to be working well. We’ve got a few areas that we are already looking into and hopefully we can make some progress for tomorrow.
“On the high fuel runs the midfield appears a bit closer than they did in previous races, so we can probably find a bit of time there. Looking at the forecast, there’s a good chance of rain on Sunday, which would make this a very exciting race.”