Lewis Hamilton has more optimism for the weekend ahead than he found at Spa last time out, with Mercedes looking closer to the pace during Dutch Grand Prix practice.
Mercedes faced one of their largest deficits of the season to Red Bull and Ferrari in Belgium, with Hamilton’s best qualifying time 1.8 seconds behind Max Verstappen’s quickest effort.
He ultimately retired on the first lap after damage suffered during his collision with Fernando Alonso, marking his first DNF of the season, but signs are there that Mercedes could be back to form at Zandvoort.
Hamilton was second behind George Russell in FP1 as the reigning Constructors’ champions hit the ground running, and Hamilton backed up his early potential by taking third in FP2, just 0.072s behind Charles Leclerc’s pace-setting time, with Russell taking P5.
Given the high-downforce characteristics of Zandvoort seemingly suit the W13’s strengths, as evidenced by Russell’s brilliant pole position at the Hungaroring before the summer break, Hamilton spoke positively about his chances – despite feeling Mercedes are close to the limit of their performance.
“This was a lot better than my Sunday and it’s a lot better than Friday, even last week, so it’s been a decent start to the weekend,” he said to Sky F1 in the paddock after FP2.
“We’ve landed in a much sweeter spot with the car, just being that it’s a much different track, and it’s a work in progress.
“We are not that far behind, which is great to see, and the car doesn’t feel that bad. So we’ve just got to keep chipping away.
“There’s probably not a huge amount more performance-wise, but we keep pushing.”
Good work, Team. Back tomorrow for more 👏 pic.twitter.com/mvGeoHtAHM
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 2, 2022
Having been so dominant in Belgium, Red Bull had a rare off-day on Friday. Home hero Max Verstappen could only manage eighth fastest in FP2 after suffering gearbox issues in first practice, which limited him to only seven laps in the earlier session, while Sergio Perez could only rank 12th after qualifying simulations.
Verstappen goes into the weekend 93 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, while Russell and Hamilton sit fifth and sixth in the standings respectively.