Mercedes are upbeat after a solid day of practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton ending the day fastest of all, declaring afterwards that he loves the track and his team are unleashing good performance from the car.
This will be an ominous warning to their rivals, Red Bull in particular, as Hamilton posted a best lap time of 1:18.170 around Circuit de Barcelona which was a tenth and a bit up on teammate Valtteri Bottas in second, indicating that the World Champs have carried their good form over from Imola.
Hamilton was buoyed by the solid result, albeit meaningless in the greater scheme of things: It’s been a good start to the weekend, the track is awesome and our balance is similar to what we had in the last race.
“It looks close but I think we’ve got good pace – we understand the car and know which direction we need to go balance-wise. We made some tweaks along the way, I don’t know if the car got better through the session but there were definitely findings there.
“We’ll analyse the two sessions to hopefully have a better set-up for tomorrow. It’s amazing to see the progress that McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine are making, not just Red Bull, and that puts pressure on us,” added Hamilton.
Red Bull went AWOL in FP2, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez ninth and tenth respectively; six-tenths of a second shy of the top time suggesting the Blues were keeping their powder dry in the afternoon session.
In the morning FP1 session, it was nip and tuck between Hamilton and Verstappen at the top of the timesheets.
Bottas added in the team report: “It was a solid day, the feeling in the car was not too bad and no massive balance issues so I’m fairly happy. On the soft tyre, getting both axles working straightaway for lap one is going to be key because the gaps will be so small.
“Tonight will be our usual process, fine-tune the set-up as best as we can because we know every millisecond is going to be crucial in qualifying. The whole field seems to be close and Ferrari looked strong today but we just need to focus on our performance and extract the maximum from this package.
Echoed by trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin: “We’ve managed to do some good work, both drivers have a decent balance and we look to be in a reasonable place on all compounds.
“Ahead of the weekend, we were concerned that rear overheating would cause us more issues but things seem to be under control, even in the hotter conditions of the afternoon session. We still have work to do getting the best out of the tyre on low fuel as we didn’t find as much time as some but we have a good baseline to work from.
“Traffic was difficult today, it’s a short lap and it looked like Red Bull may have been affected by that more than ourselves so we’ll work on the assumption that they are very close on pace and we need to find everything we can overnight,” concluded the Mercedes man.
Mercedes have worked wonders to improve the W12 after it was shown up in testing and the first two races, but now they appear to have unleashed the type of weapon that has served them so well over the past years.