Hamilton taking strong Mercedes Friday pace ‘with a pinch of salt’
Mercedes finished the first day of running of the 2020 season over six-tenths faster than their nearest rivals. But despite that, both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas remained wary of a threat from other teams across the rest of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
Mercedes took two consecutive 1-2 finishes across Free Practice 1 and 2 at the Red Bull Ring, Hamilton leading Bottas both times, and finishing 0.641s ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez in FP2. But despite the apparent dominance over the opposition – as neither Ferrari nor Red Bull were able to set a top-three time in FP2 – Hamilton was taking nothing for granted.
“I think it’s definitely looking good out there, but you can never make too much from practice,” said Hamilton. “If you look at the other teams, they’re maybe down on power modes, or up on power modes or fuel or whatever it may be. So we’ll take it with a pinch of salt, and try and see if we can improve the car tonight and come back with it tomorrow.”
Echoing his team mate’s sentiments, Bottas told the media on Friday evening: “We do see a threat [from other teams]. It’s only Friday and it’s only practice.
“I don’t think any team has yet put all of the performance items they have [on their cars]. I’m sure the lap times will come down tomorrow, from the track [evolution] but also from all the teams’ and all the drivers’ sides. It’s way too early to say – but it’s not too bad for now.”
One point of concern for the team going into Friday night was an official protest lodged by rivals Red Bull against Mercedes’ Dual Axis Steering system – although Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner hinted earlier in the day that such a protest could be a means for Red Bull to ensure the system’s legality before introducing their own version of the device.