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Hamilton: Mercedes “on the way” on make-or-break weekend

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Have the Silver Arrows found their silver bullet? That was the big question in the Barcelona paddock last night after Mercedes enjoyed another successful Friday, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finishing second and third fastest respectively in practice ahead of tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Naturally, both drivers angrily downplayed their chances of taking on big boys Ferrari and Red Bull.

Russell had insisted before practice that the Brackley team, who had arrived with significant upgrades to their car, hadn’t “suddenly found that killer switch” to propel it onto the podiums. They were, Russell said, just hoping to have found some answers that would point them “in the right direction.”

Even after finishing just 0.117s behind Ferrari’s championship leader Charles Leclerc and Hamilton just 0.087s behind, Russell played overly cautious. “I don’t know, to be honest,” he said. “In Miami we were the fastest on Friday, let’s see.”

However, neither Russell nor Hamilton could entirely hide their optimism. “The car definitely reacts differently and we definitely don’t have a porpoise on the straight,” admitted Russell, citing the kangaroo-esque ups and downs that have plagued Mercedes so far this season.

“Yeah, that was good,” agreed Hamilton, who described himself as “super happy” with the progress made since Miami. “Big, big, big thanks to everyone at the factory who didn’t give up and kept pushing,” he added.

The big question is if this is another fake dawn or if the improvements are real. After the frustrations in Florida, there’s an all-or-nothing feeling about the Mercedes car this weekend.

Nobody denies that the W13 has potential. The problem is that the team tried to unlock it in the dark. Team boss Toto Wolff admitted after Miami, where Russell and Hamilton finished fifth and sixth respectively, that the team’s engineers were stunned by the data they got from the car as it didn’t correlate with their drivers’ feedback.

According to Wolff, this is an unprecedented problem for the eight-time design engineer.

The reason this weekend is considered so crucial is that the Circuit de Catalunya offers a reliable guide to performance more than any other track. With the amount of testing teams here, they have a baseline they don’t have anywhere else. Russell admitted before practice that the weekend was a key weekend in terms of the Mercedes season.

There are still 17 races to go. Lots of points to win and lose. And both Ferrari and Red Bull, for whom Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen were fourth and fifth fastest respectively in practice, have already lost many points this season.

First things first: Mercedes need to keep up the pace they showed yesterday. “I think we’re on our way,” Hamilton admitted last night.

“It’s the first time I’ve gone down the straight without jerking. Well, we still have a few jumps. But it’s much, much better.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Spain Grand Prix Qualifying, Sky Sports F1, 2.25.

Spanish Grand Prix, Sky Sports, tomorrow 12.30.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/motor-sport/hamilton-mercedes-on-the-way-in-make-or-break-weekend-41672810.html Hamilton: Mercedes “on the way” on make-or-break weekend

Fry Electronics Team

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