‘We were the makers of our own issues’ say Mercedes, after losing more ground to Red Bull in Austria
Mercedes lost yet more ground to rivals Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen made it a clean sweep of victories in F1’s first triple header of the year. But according to the Silver Arrows’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin, the team had no one to blame for their Austrian misfortunes but themselves.
Mercedes’ Austrian Grand Prix was always going to be difficult after the team suffered their worst dry qualifying performance since Singapore 2017, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas lining up fourth and fifth on the grid, behind the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Perez in P1 and P3, while Lando Norris took a stunning P2 for McLaren.
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But although Mercedes recovered ground in the race, it wasn’t in the usual emphatic Silver Arrows style, with Bottas benefitting from a penalty for Norris to finish P2, as Hamilton struggled with downforce loss caused by damage to eventually finish fourth, as Verstappen won for the fourth time in five races.
“We’re not pleased with the result,” confirmed Shovlin. “I think we would have been satisfied with a second and third, which was realistically the best we could have done.
“We were the makers of our own issues a bit with the poor qualifying yesterday,” added Shovlin, “so that made it very, very difficult to be even thinking about challenging Max – and I think in reality his pace was too strong. Even if Lewis had had stint one behind him [instead of being behind Norris] I don’t think he would have troubled him.”
Another part of Mercedes’ struggles were their attempts to find an optimum set-up for the W12 around the Red Bull Ring, with the notoriously simulator-averse Hamilton even pounding out virtual laps of the Austrian track to try and find a sweet-spot for the car.
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But Shovlin said that, despite all Mercedes’ hard work, they’d failed to get the car into its happy place across the two Austrian races – albeit that they were only outscored by seven points in those two weeks by Red Bull – with Shovlin adding that he’d impressed by the improvements of their Mercedes-powered rivals McLaren.
“The problem is, everyone is looking at what they did in the first week [at the Styrian Grand Prix] and improving it for the second, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve made any relevant progress if I’m honest,” said Shovlin. “We did get the balance around the lap a bit better, but it doesn’t look like we’ve found tenths of performance and there’s still that gap.
“I think it was a surprise to see Lando in the shootout for pole,” added Shovlin. “He was awfully close to getting pole, and they’ve clearly been progressing. We know any deficit there isn’t on the power unit side.
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“So it was a bit of a surprise to see them as strong as they were, and even in the race… we were racing them, whereas last week they were doing their own thing and we got through them rather quickly.”
Constructors' standings after the Austrian GP
|1 Red Bull Racing||286|