Andrew Shovlin says Valtteri Bottas was more at ease with the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve than his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Lewis Hamilton was during Friday’s running, even though the Briton ended the day fastest in the afternoon session.
Bottas had set the quickest time in the morning session, a lap that would not be beaten as the track appeared to slow down when the temperatures rose at the Portuguese track. His afternoon best was over half a second slower, although he was still able to place inside the top three.
Hamilton ended fifth in the morning and quickest in the afternoon, but his lap time was almost two-tenths slower than Bottas’ morning best.
“It’s been an interesting day,” reflected Shovlin. “The first session was quite tricky in the cold conditions and in the afternoon it was warmer but the wind had picked up strength and was pushing the car around, affecting the balance.
“Valtteri seemed quite comfortable with the car, he was on the pace from the start and able to generate good grip from the tyres which allowed him to get into some useful setup investigations. Lewis struggled more with the rear end and whilst he topped the timesheets, we’ve got some work to do to improve the balance for him tomorrow.”
Shovlin revealed the team found damage on both cars after Friday’s running that compromised their lap times, so there will be some pace still to show when they hit the track again on Saturday morning.
He feels Mercedes are in the battle for pole position in Portugal, but he knows Red Bull Racing and even Scuderia Ferrari could interject themselves in the fight for first place on the grid on Saturday afternoon.
“We’d found some damage on both cars at the end of the day that will have been costing some performance and will certainly explain some of Lewis’s issues on the long run but even with that corrected, we could do with finding a bit more pace,” said Shovlin.
“The single lap looks really close with Red Bull but Ferrari were also consistently around our pace so we’ll prepare ourselves for another close fight tomorrow. Likewise, the long runs all seem to overlay pretty closely so hopefully that’s a sign we’ll be in for an exciting race on Sunday.”