Lewis Hamilton reflected on Mercedes’ struggles around the newly resurfaced Miami International Autodrome, admitting their pace was a kick in the guts.
Mercedes gave a false indication that they are in good form in Miami as they finished one-two in FP1, with George Russell leading Lewis Hamilton, but they did their flyer laps towards the end of the session when the grip was at its best, which somehow masked their issues.
However the true, but sad, picture of the eight-time Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions was revealed in FP2, where Hamilton was almost one second off the pace in seventh, Russell down in 15th and 1.286s too slow.
Hamilton put up a brave face at the end of Friday in Miami, hoping to still be able to turn things around while reflecting on his day in Mercedes‘ media brief.
“I’m going to stay optimistic and hopeful that we can get the car in a better place for tomorrow, and maybe be a couple of positions further forward than today,” he said.
“We weren’t particularly quick, and it was a struggle out there. The grip is quite low on this new surface. It is slippery, particularly for the rear-end. The track temperature today was very high so there was lots of sliding.
“FP1 looked quite good but our pace in FP2 was a kick in the guts. We’re trying lots of different things and we’ll keep working on it,” he added. “We’ll regroup tonight, see if we can make some set-up changes and get the car in a better sweet spot.
“It’s a great weekend here and a great place to be so there are still positives,” the seven-time F1 Champion concluded.
Russell: The car changed even during the session
Russell’s Friday in Miami was full of reminiscences from 2022, as Mercedes showed good form at the start of the weekend, only for that to fade during qualifying and the race where finished fifth. He also suffered from steering column issue in FP1 that kept him confined to the team garage for more than half the session.
“Today didn’t feel too dissimilar to last year here in Miami,” Russell reflected. “In 2022, we were fastest on Friday but then knocked out in Q2 on Saturday.
“This year, the car changed even during the session. FP1 was a bit of a messy hour but we ended fastest. In FP2, I felt strong on the medium run but when we put the soft tyre on, the car wasn’t working for me. We understand a little bit why that is and fortunately, we’ve got the time to make improvements overnight. It’s fine margins out there,” he explained.
Going on; the Briton touched on the track’s resurfacing; he said: “I think going into Sunday there will be a few unknowns. The track has been resurfaced this year but it’s still not performing like another circuit. It’s a true outlier. I think that’s cool in some regards, but it could be difficult to race on. You can’t afford to drive offline as you lose all grip.
“Looking at Saturday, if everything is right then there’s no reason we can’t be ahead of Ferrari and Aston Martin. As we’ve seen at the first four races, it’s very tight between all three teams. If we maximise everything, we can be rewarded and jump ahead of them.
“We know we’ve got the potential, but we need to improve overnight,” the 25-year-old concluded.
Mercedes’ FP1 form flattered them to some degree
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, summed up the day for the Brackley squad, admitting their FP1 lap times were deceiving, he said: “Our programme in FP1 was offset compared to others, so the headline times flattered us to some degree.
“Nevertheless, we clearly had the car in a nice window and both drivers found that the lap time came quite easily. We made some subtle changes to the car before FP2, but it immediately become apparent that in cooler conditions the car was more of handful on new tyres.
“The red flag for Leclerc’s crash meanwhile meant that everyone was limited to only a few laps on high fuel. From the running we did get, our pace in that aspect looks OK. It’s going to be difficult to overtake here though so we must improve our single lap balance this evening, otherwise we will face a frustrating Sunday.
“As usual, we have the support of our factory overnight and we’ve got a good read on the issues from today, so we know what to work on,” Shovlin concluded.