Mercedes caused something of a shock when their car arrived in Austria looking dramatically different from the one that raced to victory in France last weekend. And after testing their upgraded machine for the first time on Friday, championship leader Lewis Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas have given the revised package the thumbs up.
“The team has done a really good job delivering the updates. Every single person in the team has worked really hard on them,” said Bottas.
“It worked exactly as expected which is down to all the hard work behind the scenes. Especially the rear end of the car was really stable today.
“Last year I had severe blistering on the rear-left tyre, which could potentially be an issue again as it is going to be warmer again this Sunday. So it's good that the rear felt stable today. However, we do still have a bit of balance work to do to get the most out of the car.”
Hamilton echoed Bottas, saying: “The car felt immediately better coming out of the garage in FP1 and also at the start at FP2. It got a little worse during the afternoon session and we will try to figure out why in the debrief.
“But the car does feel good overall, so I'm sure we can rectify it. I'm going to keep pushing, trying to maximise a bit more out of it.”
Mercedes have said that they hope the upgrade package is worth a tenth of a second as they bid to extend their lead in both championship races this weekend. And although the initial signs are promising, with one-twos for the team in both Spielberg practice sessions, the Silver Arrows’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin was keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Valtteri was happy with his car on the long run and his pace is encouraging. Lewis wasn't comfortable on the ultrasoft on the long run, but the soft tyre looked strong,” he said.
“We normally see Ferrari take a big step forward from Friday to Saturday so we are not paying a lot of attention to the lap times from today, rather we will try and work on the issues that both drivers have highlighted and see if we can find a bit of pace for tomorrow. It's always a close grid at this track, so getting every little detail right will be important.”
Mercedes’ Austria form makes for ominous reading for their rivals. The Silver Arrows have won all four races in Spielberg since the race returned to the calendar in 2014, and taken pole for the last three years…