Mercedes is bringing a raft of updates to its W13 to the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in hopes of alleviating the porpoise problem that has blighted Hamilton and his teammate George Russell this year.
Mercedes showed signs of improving its relative pace with Red Bull and Ferrari by training, and briefly led the timetables in the second quarter as its rivals opted to complete their first rounds on used tyres.
Russell qualified fourth by defeating Sergio Perez in Red Bull, while Hamilton finished the sixth session 0.762 seconds short of the first-place time held by Charles Leclerc.
Although Hamilton indicated after qualifying that he was “in the same position I was in the last race”, he was optimistic about the progress Mercedes has made to mitigate the hog-hunting problem.
“We don’t have to jump in a straight line, which is a huge, huge difference,” said Hamilton.
“But we still have some rebound like Turns 3 and 10. So we still have some improvements to make, but the car is a lot better.”
Hamilton added: “As you can see in the second quarter, we were the fastest. So this is a glimpse of hope for the team.”
Hamilton is sixth in the drivers’ championship after five races, 68 points clear of leader Leclerc, leaving any hope of fighting for an eighth world title this year in doubt.
And when asked if the step forward at Barcelona gave him some hope that he might put himself back in the title race this year, Hamilton replied: “I don’t really put my mind to it, I’m still a long way off.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Zach Mauger/Motorsports Pictures
“Fourth for my teammates, and that means the car has to be at least third or fourth, and I’m sixth. So I still struggled with the car.
“I don’t know how to get over it, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I will keep trying and working hard on myself.”
Russell agreed with Hamilton’s assessment that catching porpoises was still a problem going through corners, but said the car could now turn closer to the ground than before.
“Through the same angles, it wasn’t fundamentally different, just we had more grip and we could bring the car closer to the ground and we knew that would come with solving the porpoise problem,” said Russell.
“But I think we lost a lot of downforce in general to be able to make it, and maybe the car isn’t as fast as we’d like at the moment to fight with the guys up front.
“Now we know that’s our baseline, we can really build on that and find more performance.”
Russell added he was “confident” that the updates had put Mercedes “a lot more into the mix” against Ferrari and Red Bull, who swept the first five races of the season.
“We just have to look at today, it wasn’t the perfect day and yet we still got our best result as a team,” Russell said.
“We’ve always been in the top three, the top four overall all weekend, and this is the first time all weekend we’ve been on top of the schedule during a Quali session,” Russell said.
“It’s been an easier weekend for us and we’re excited to see what the next races bring. It still takes a couple of more races to really find more speed.”
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