Red Bull ‘throwing really good punches right now’ says Hamilton, as Mercedes trail in Friday practice
Lewis Hamilton maintained that he's not on the ropes going into the Styrian Grand Prix, even though Championship leader Max Verstappen threw the first jabs by topping FP1 and FP2 in Austria.
The Briton, who finished third in FP1 and fourth in FP2, said the deficit wasn't as bad as it seemed given that one of his laps was deleted for a track limits violation. That deleted lap, of 1m 05.335s, would have been fast enough to put Hamilton top in the second session.
“I think one of my laps got taken away and it was a lot closer, so yes, it’s close,” he said. “As I said particularly in the race pace, they were really, really strong and they’re punching – they’re throwing some really good punches right now – so we’ve just got to have our guards up, you know? And make sure we’re ready for the return.
“I will do everything I can during the evening to make the right steps in the right direction but generally, kind of eking most of it out of the car and I think – I don’t know if it’s a four-tenths gap – we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he added.
Asked where Mercedes' strengths and weaknesses lie compared to Red Bull, Hamilton pointed out his rivals' single-lap pace and straight-line speed as being superior, adding that they have "just got the edge".
"I think we were a little bit down obviously, particularly over a single lap, but generally today the car felt relatively solid," he said. "We’ve got some weaknesses but as I said coming into the weekend, losing on the straight by a considerable amount, so we’ve just got to keep working to try and rectify that.
"I think it’s very close, I think, with the whole pack. I think the Red Bulls definitely will be really hard to beat. I think they’ve just got the edge – maybe more. We don’t know what they’re going to do when they turn that engine up, but I really don’t know what to say."
The heavyweight title fight continues in Round 8 with Verstappen 12 points ahead of Hamilton and Red Bull 37 points ahead of Mercedes. Will anyone land a decisive blow in the Red Bull Ring this weekend?