Mercedes On Top On Opening Day In Austria

After seeing Red Bull take the upper hand in recent weeks, Mercedes have fought back on the opening day of the FORMULA 1 BWT GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2021 as Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in FP1, with Valtteri Bottas just behind.

Both drivers completed stints with the prototype C4 compound tyre ahead of its introduction at Silverstone in two weeks’ time.

Small Steps For Lewis Hamilton

While he won’t be popping champagne in celebration of his result on the first day of practice, Lewis Hamilton was pleased to see that he and the team were moving in the right direction as they look to close the gap to Max Verstappen.

‘Red Bull have definitely got something extra in their bag but we’ve made some small steps forward and over a single lap, the car felt pretty good. FP1 was a bit of a struggle, we were trying different set up variations based on our work in the sim this week and the car wasn’t happy. In FP2, we reverted to a similar set up as last week, with a few other adjustments, and the car felt much better. I probably won’t change much now because most often if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! So just tiny tweaks for me this evening. I still expect Red Bull to be ahead of us, but we’ll be trying to make the gap as small as possible tomorrow,’ said Hamilton.

2021 Austrian Grand Prix, Friday - Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)
2021 Austrian Grand Prix, Friday – Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)

Valtteri Bottas Enjoying Second Week In Austria

Valtteri Bottas was P4 in the morning session, as both drivers tested different set-up variations. He then moved up to P2 in the afternoon session.

‘Today was good fun – with the second week, every single margin in terms of cornering performance and driving performance becomes smaller so it’s about fine-tuning rather than finding big chunks of time. I think we started OK in terms of how the car feels, much better than last week, so hopefully we can build from that. It’s practice so you never what programs other teams are running – no doubt the Red Bulls are still strong and they are gaining on the straight which has been a bit of a weakness for us but we’ll find out tomorrow when everybody turns their engine up.
 
‘The softer tyre compounds make a big difference, it feels like the tyres are holding on better in the long-runs and I think the temperatures will be quite variable over the weekend so let’s see what effect that has on the tyres. Max was a bit out of reach last weekend but it’s a new week, we’ve learned a lot, I like to think we’re closer but no doubt they’ll still be very quick,’ added Bottas.

Mercedes Moving In Right Direction

After being blown away by Red Bull last time out, Mercedes have been working hard to make improvements to their package, and Andrew Shovlin feels that work is now paying off.

‘It’s been an interesting day; we’d been busy this week trying to find improvements on both the chassis and the power unit and from today’s running it does look like we’ve made some steps in the right direction. The conditions are quite different to last week, cooler air and a much cooler track which is certainly helping deal with the softer compounds. The single lap was encouraging in that we were extracting good grip from the tyres, not always something we have managed on the softest Pirelli rubber, but we’re under no illusion that Red Bull will have plenty in hand for tomorrow,’ concluded Shovlin.

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