Lewis Hamilton has warned that the upgrade the Mercedes Formula 1 team has planned for the British Grand Prix will not be sufficient to close the gap to a Red Bull that is “on rails”.
Mercedes’ development approach has been a key talking point over the past week, with Hamilton regularly highlighting the fact that Red Bull is continuing to constantly upgrade its 2021 car while Mercedes has put all its focus onto 2022.
Toto Wolff’s intimation after the Styrian Grand Prix that Mercedes had no more upgrades planned – a declaration Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he didn’t believe – was clarified by technical director James Allison as not including upgrades already in the pipeline, and one of these is due to arrive for Silverstone in a fortnight.
But after a third straight defeat to title rival Max Verstappen in the Austrian GP, Hamilton said he wasn’t expecting those parts to be game-changing.
“We have a little bit coming but it’s not going to close the gap enough,” he said. “So, we’ve got to do some more work.”
Verstappen’s clean sweep of wins in F1’s France/Styria/Austria triple header takes Red Bull’s victory run up to five straight grands prix, with Mercedes having not won since the Spanish GP in early May.
“Obviously he’s pretty much just cruising ahead, so there’s not really much I can do about it,” said Hamilton of Verstappen.
“Praying for a different scenario in the next race. But, I mean, you look at their car, it’s just on rails.”
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team felt some of its deficit to Red Bull in Austria was track specific, and accentuated by underperformance in the hot conditions of qualifying.
“We haven’t been particularly strong here in general,” said Shovlin.
“That isn’t so much evidenced in the gap to where Red Bull are, but just how much pressure we were under really with McLaren. Lando [Norris] did a great job but ended up ahead of us [in qualifying].
“Some of that is that this track isn’t suiting the car and we’ve not made any inroads on that over the two races here, so that feels like a bit of a longer-term thing to look at.
“And then also that very soft compound, the C5, just wasn’t giving us as much in the hot conditions on Saturday as we were getting from it on Friday. And there’s another question there.
“It wasn’t so much that we did anything obviously wrong, but when you look at where the performance order was, we would have to acknowledge that there was something that we’re doing that isn’t right.”
Hamilton agreed that Mercedes might just perform better away from the Red Bull Ring.
“We’re giving it absolutely everything, these past two weeks I’ve been to the factory each week, trying to extract as much as I can from the car, but our car just doesn’t go well here for some reason and I really hope that it does in these next ones,” he said.