Lewis Hamilton feels Red Bull Racing still have something extra over the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team this weekend at the Red Bull Ring, despite the Briton ending Friday with the fastest time overall.
The reigning World Champion was only seventh fastest in the mornings running in Austria as Max Verstappen set the pace, but the afternoon was a different story as the Briton led the way in a Mercedes one-two.
Hamilton said the changes the team made between sessions, reverting to a set-up close to what they used last weekend at the same track for the Styrian Grand Prix, made the car felt better, but he still believes Red Bull have not yet shown their true hand or form.
“Red Bull have definitely got something extra in their bag, but we’ve made some small steps forward and over a single lap, the car felt pretty good,” said Hamilton. “FP1 was a bit of a struggle, we were trying different set up variations based on our work in the sim this week and the car wasn’t happy.
“In FP2, we reverted to a similar set up as last week, with a few other adjustments, and the car felt much better. I probably won’t change much now because most often if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! So just tiny tweaks for me this evening.
“I still expect Red Bull to be ahead of us, but we’ll be trying to make the gap as small as possible tomorrow.”
“I think we started OK in terms of how the car feels” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest in the morning session on Friday, but he ended the day second best to Hamilton in the afternoon.
The Finn says this weekend is all about fine-tuning what they learned in last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prixat the same venue, and he hopes the rest of the weekend is as positive as his Friday’s running was.
“Today was good fun – with the second week, every single margin in terms of cornering performance and driving performance becomes smaller so it’s about fine-tuning rather than finding big chunks of time,” said Bottas. “I think we started OK in terms of how the car feels, much better than last week, so hopefully we can build from that.
“It’s practice so you never what programs other teams are running – no doubt the Red Bulls are still strong and they are gaining on the straight which has been a bit of a weakness for us but we’ll find out tomorrow when everybody turns their engine up.”
Pirelli have brought compounds one step softer than was run last weekend at the Red Bull Ring, and Bottas says they’ve made a big difference in performance.
“The softer tyre compounds make a big difference, it feels like the tyres are holding on better in the long-runs and I think the temperatures will be quite variable over the weekend so let’s see what effect that has on the tyres,” said the Finn.
“Max was a bit out of reach last weekend but it’s a new week, we’ve learned a lot, I like to think we’re closer but no doubt they’ll still be very quick.”