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Mercedes mystified by Hamilton's lack of pace

NEWS STORY
11/07/2020

Fourth in FP1, 0.253s off the pace, and sixth in FP2, 0.688s off the pace, wasn't particularly impressive from the world champion on Friday, especially as in the second session his teammate, Valtteri Bottas was only narrowly edged out by Max Verstappen.

While many are speculating that Hamilton - and Mercedes - are easing off, with an eye on the issues they encountered during last week's race when pushing too hard and running over the kerbs, Bottas' pace didn't appear similarly affected.

Indeed, though Toto Wolff has admitted that the engines were ramped up for the qualifying sims and the team hadn't gone full 'party mode', Hamilton's pace was consistently lacking.

"It wasn't full attack, but it wasn't half attack either," Wolff told Austrian broadcaster ORF. "We added a little bit more... let's say, we drove on a performance level that we normally don't drive on Friday.

"We are a bit in the dark, especially with Lewis' time," he admitted. There's a problem with the car. At the moment we don't know. The car is just all over the place in the slow and medium fast corners. But we have data channels for everything, and you have to take your time to look at that."

Knowing that Mercedes rarely shows its hand too early, when asked what his team has in reserve, Wolff replied: "Not so much anymore.

"Compared to last week Verstappen has improved, and especially the Racing Points have really improved," he continued. "Everyone else is slower, just like us. But there is a lot of thinking and data to collect to see where the performance is."

"I can't really say anything," said Hamilton. "It felt relatively normal, but it was quite far off, so there's a lot of work that needs to go on in the background to try and figure out why.

"I was feeling good in practice one and the start of FP2 felt pretty good, and then it just started to drop off.

"Others out there are quick, and Valtteri's obviously got good pace. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit better."

Of course, Hamilton's problems are compounded by the fact that the grid could be decided by the order in which the drivers finished yesterday's second session.

"It will suck if we don't get to qualify, because it wasn't great," said the Briton, "I'll be starting further back than even last week, so it will definitely make it challenging. I'm trying to do the dry dance, if there's a dry dance to make sure there's no frigging rain for Sunday."

Asked if he feels the field is more evenly matched this week, he said: "It seems so, but you never know what's happening in practice.

"It does seem that the others are getting pretty quick, or we have slowed down, one of the two.

"As I said we've just got to do some work. I hope we can drive when it's raining, it's fun out there, so hopefully we can still drive in the rain."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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