Mercedes is hoping to iron out the balance and pace issues it experienced during Friday’s free practice sessions as the team acknowledge it needs to make progress.
Things looked good for Mercedes as the Belgian Grand Prix weekend began at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, with Valtteri Bottas topping the time sheets in free practice one and Lewis Hamilton only one tenth of a second behind in second place.
Free practice two was a different story for the reigning constructors’ champions, as various issues gave the Mercedes drivers trouble.
Hamilton only managed third behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, with Bottas down in sixth.
Speaking about the reasons behind the Mercedes cars’ struggles, Chief Engineer, Andrew Shovlin said:
“Both drivers have struggled a bit with the balance, mainly with a weak front end and we looked a bit slower than we normally do on a Friday even when the car seems to be working well.
“We’ve got a few areas that we are already looking into and hopefully we can make some progress for tomorrow.
“On the high fuel runs the midfield appears a bit closer than they did in previous races, so we can probably find a bit of time there.”
Bottas commented on the difficulties he faced in free practice two, but seemed positive that the team would find its pace again. “The first session was good, the second turned out to be a bit more tricky.
“It was nothing major, and I didn’t get the laps quite right, but I think we might have to revert some set-up changes back to FP1.
“We were struggling with understeer all day and didn’t really find a good solution for that.
“I think once the front end feels a bit stronger and I can get the car into the corners better, we’ll find some lap time.”
Hamilton also acknowledged the unusual place in the time sheets both the Mercedes cars found themselves in.
“It’s generally been a good day – I love driving around this track, it’s incredible.” he said.
“It’s very close out there between Red Bull and us; I think they might be a little bit quicker even at the moment.
“Racing Point are also looking strong, they’re right with us as well and so was Daniel in the Renault.
“It’s really close with everyone and we have to understand why – whether they’ve taken a step forwards or we’ve taken a step backwards.
“So we’ve definitely got some work to do overnight, dig through the data and try and dial in the car a little more.
“But it looks like we’ve got an exciting weekend ahead of us.”
Despite these issues, it is clear that the drivers intend to put up a fight at a track they enjoy racing at and both maintain positive mindsets ahead of Saturday’s free practice three.