The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team were well ahead of the rest of the field in both free practice sessions at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Friday, and Lewis Hamilton feels there is still more to come from the W11.
Hamilton finished second to team-mate Valtteri Bottas on Friday morning but took top spot in the afternoon session, with his fastest time of 1:20.192 0.262 seconds clear of the Finn.
Mercedes were the only team to get underneath the 1:21s barrier on Friday, and Hamilton has warned the rest of the field that they can still get better ahead of Saturday’s Qualifying session.
“The car didn’t feel great in the first session but in the afternoon, it felt like we made some encouraging improvements and it was much better,” said Hamilton. “We have a few more steps to make overnight and then I think it’ll be where it needs to.
“It’s quite a bumpy track here and with the low downforce, there’s a lot of sliding. You need to find the right balance with the bumps and between the low and high-speed turns.
“The field is typically a lot closer here, compared to Spa, as it’s such a fast lap and there aren’t many corners. Valtteri’s quick here, too, so it’s going to be a fun battle.”
Hamilton looked back at the farce that was Qualifying at Monza in 2019 when drivers did not want to be the lead car. This ended up with extremely slow laps to the chequered flag, with many drivers not making it to the line in time to set a final lap time.
“It’s going to be interesting in Qualifying, obviously we didn’t get our final lap in last year and I think the last corner will be a bit of a nightmare with everyone trying to get a gap, so it’s going to be hard work,” said Hamilton.
“The car felt pretty good out there throughout the day” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Bottas was quickest in the morning session but was unable to find as much time in the afternoon session as Hamilton did, but he said the W11 felt good all day long at the Temple of Speed.
Like Hamilton, Bottas says there is more to come from the car on Saturday and Sunday, but he admitted his surprise to just how far Mercedes were ahead of their rivals, with Lando Norris the closest in the afternoon, almost nine-tenths of a second away from Hamilton.
“The car felt pretty good out there throughout the day, but there is always more to come,” said Bottas. “I’m sure we can still improve it, for example the rear stability was lacking a bit in a few of the corners.
“My lap in practice two wasn’t great so from my side, there’s quite a bit more to come as well. It’s an unusual track here, quite stop and start, with not so many high-speed corners and traction being very important out of the slow turns. The margins are so fine here and there aren’t many corners to make the difference.
“I was a little surprised by the lap times and performance compared to the others at this stage in the weekend, but I’m sure every team will find more time and it’ll be closer tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“Our overall package has looked pretty good here today” – Andrew Shovlin
Andrew Shovlin, the Chief Race Engineer at Mercedes, says the W11 appears to be working well around Monza, and they are much more competitive in a straight-line than they were just seven days previously at Spa-Francorchamps.
Shovlin says he is interested to see how the new technical directives, aiming at eliminating Qualifying engine modes, work in that Qualifying hour, but he expects a strong performance from Mercedes non-the-less as the overall package looks good at this stage of the weekend.
“The car seems to be working well here and it feels like we are in a more competitive region with regards to straight-line speed, compared to last weekend in Spa,” said Shovlin.
“Most of the day was spent understanding the tyres. It’s a bit hotter than last year, which will shift things around a bit, but overall, they all seem pretty similar in terms of performance, especially on a long run.
“There’s the usual work to do overnight on the balance, traction is strong at the moment and we have a few places where the front end needs to be better and others where the rear is a bit weak.
“Tomorrow should be interesting, to see where everyone is in terms of power in Qualifying as it’s the introduction of the new Technical Directive, that requires teams to use a single mode. The Mercedes-powered teams are probably going to be the most affected on a single lap, but our overall package has looked pretty good here today so hopefully we won’t get any nasty surprises.”