Hamilton excited by close comptition after practice in Belgium
Practice in the Ardennes saw surprisingly close competition at the front of the field; something which Lewis Hamilton was quite pleased about.
Breaking the cycle
Mercedes enter the Belgian Grand Prix weekend 86 points adrift of the teams playing catch up behind them; the Silver Arrows have taken pole position in six out of six races so far this season, but Spa might prove to be more of a challenge.
Photo credit: Mercedes
Mercedes are on the hunt for their first Belgian Grand Prix victory since 2017 - the race in which Lewis Hamilton secured a hat trick of wins at Spa. Though he and his teammate had blistering pace on Friday, they were not alone.
“It’s been generally a good day - I love driving around this track, it’s incredible,” said Hamilton, now gunning for his seventh World Championship.
“Fortunately, it was dry for us, so it gave us plenty of time to understand the car, plenty of time to get some running in. I think the Red Bulls are a little bit quicker at the moment, but even the Racing Point is right with us. And then also Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault was very close.
“You know it makes it exciting. We’ve got some work to do to try to dial in the car, but it doesn’t feel bad at all.”
Too close for comfort?
Though Hamiliton could be forgiven for feeling surprised and arguably frustrated by the closeness of the field, he simply explained: “The car, just race-to-race, is different each place we go. Some places we are ahead, some places we are behind.
Photo credit: Mercedes
“As I anticipated coming into this weekend, we’re only into the seventh race so the field’s going to get closer and closer as the whole of F1 develops. And it’s already showing that this weekend.
“We seem to be so close with everyone. We’ve got to understand why. Either they’ve taken a step or we’ve taken a step back or it’s just the track layout or downforce level. Who knows? We’ll work on that, but I’m excited for an interesting race.”
Birthday boy on board
Team mate Valtteri Bottas celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday, and had quite a rewarding day, topping the time tables in FP1. He too explained that the battle at the top was the “closest so far we’ve seen”, despite feeling the opportunity for improvements.
Photo credit: Mercedes.
“It’s been a nice birthday - I can definitely think of worse things to do on your birthday,” he said after FP2. “First session was good. Second session was a bit more tricky but nothing major - I didn’t get the lap quite right. I’m sure we can revert some things back to the setup we had in practice one.
“To be honest, the whole day has been quite understeery. In second practice I was lacking a bit of front end here and there. So I think for me the main lap time gain will come with just a bit stronger front end and being able to get the car where it needs to be in the corners.”
Mercedes have their work cut out for them
Though Mercedes were very much on the pace in practice, so were the teams behind them; if the Silver Arrows want to end their winless streak in Belgium this weekend, they will have to pull out all the stops.