Lewis Hamilton says this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix has been more challenging for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team than last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, with the reigning World Champion only fourth on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Hamilton started on the front row seven days ago at the Red Bull Ring, but Qualifying this time around saw him end behind title rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing, as well as McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris and the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez.
The Briton hopes to move forward on race day on Sunday, but he knows Mercedes need to improve if they are to take the championship fight to Verstappen and Red Bull this season.
“This weekend is more of a challenge than it was already last week and we continue to lack pace,” revealed Hamilton. “We tried everything to get more out of the car but the underlying pace just isn’t good enough at the moment, so we’ve got to really find performance in the following races.
“I don’t know if McLaren brought an upgrade but they were mega quick today so great job from Lando. We’ve just got to try and improve, we’ve still got a long way to go.
“In the heat today, Red Bull seemed to step forwards and we stepped backwards so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
“I was hoping to fight for the pole but today it was out of reach” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas admitted he was hoping to fight for pole position on Saturday, but the gap to Verstappen meant it was out of reach for the under-pressure Finnish driver.
Bottas feels Mercedes have perhaps not made the kind of gains that other teams have this weekend in Austria, and as a result he was forced to settle for fifth on the grid.
“I was hoping to fight for the pole but today it was out of reach,” said Bottas. “It seemed like we went a little bit backwards from last weekend or others gained more than us.
“I would say we’re missing maybe a tenth or two from where we should have been and clearly McLaren has found something with the C5 compound this weekend, it seems to work well with their car.”
Despite his position on the grid, Bottas believes Mercedes are likely to be in a better shape on race day, and he predicts a battle with Red Bull at the front of the field.
“I think race pace wise we should be in better shape – all the developing we’ve done with the car setup is aiming a bit more towards the race pace so we need to learn from today and then I’m sure we can get a good result for the team tomorrow,” added the Finn.
“I’m still expecting a big fight with Red Bull in the race.”