Mercedes F1 hopes its drivers will fight to replicate Paul Ricard’s double podium when Formula 1 kicks off at the Hungaroring this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished second and third at the French Grand Prix, with the latter overtaking Sergio Perez en route to the final podium.
Strategy director James Vowles said the performance was possible because the track allowed the team to take advantage of its high race pace.
“I think where we are at the moment is clearly we are improving our race pace. But the qualifying is not there at the moment. We are struggling to really get into the fight with Ferrari and Red Bull and there will be some tracks like Paul Ricard and Silverstone, where we can take advantage of that race pace later on.”
“It’s fair to say that there are weeks when it’s hard to tell the difference between the two Ferraris and the two Red Bulls. There are weeks when Perez’s pace is similar to Verstappen’s or very close. This past weekend seemed to make more of a difference big. In Sainz’s case, he had engine penalties, meaning he started from the back of the grid. If he had been at the front, it was an incredibly fast car and it would have been difficult to overtake him, so we have a element of realism”.
This weekend’s race at the Hungaroring, where overtaking is notoriously difficult, will not play to Mercedes’ strength on race day.
“In Budapest it is very difficult if you start from the back. There are opportunities but it is more difficult. We are here to improve and move forward, but we are not there yet. beat Ferrari and Red Bull in the race. they need others to make mistakes.”
However, Vowles is encouraged by renewed optimism at Mercedes after their difficult start to the season.
“I’m incredibly happy to see people laughing again. The whole point of motorsport is to create some of the highest highs you can feel and get through some of the lows too.”
“We’re not where we need to be to win yet, that’s the short answer, especially for example in terms of the pace of qualifying and Hungary will expose that weakness a little bit. We’ve taken steps forward and we’ll see how we’re progressing. We’ll push forward again. in the next few races, but in Budapest we have to be realistic.”
“Where we are with this car, just solid in the race, it’s not going to allow us to use all the conditions that are going to come our way, especially on Saturday. We have to do a better job than we did to make sure that we qualify where the car must be in front.”
When asked if the upgrades at Paul Ricard had made a difference, Vowles said the team would continue to re-introduce parts.
“In terms of the evolutions themselves, they are incremental steps, they are small steps that we add to the car, but the important thing is that we plan to introduce many, many more in the races that follow.”
“We won’t be able to catch up and be with Ferrari and Red Bull at the same time. But hopefully, as you’ve seen throughout the season so far, we’re closing that gap. We’ve got more to come.”