Lewis Hamilton feels that Red Bull, as Mercedes used to, have a ‘party’ engine mode that they can introduce for qualifying.
Party modes, as they were nicknamed – special engine modes reserved for qualifying – were something Mercedes were renowned for before they were banned in 2020.
The German team would constantly use the mode to get more power from their engine once qualifying started to get an advantage over their rivals.
Despite such a ban though, Hamilton feels like Red Bull still have a similar mode at their disposal and, after topping FP2 in Austria, is expecting them to use it and regain the upper hand in the fight at the front come Saturday.
“They [Red Bull] have definitely got some extra in their bag,” he said after running on Friday.
“I already know that but I think we have made some small progress. I think they still have two tenths or maybe it is a tenth and a half, something like that. We can definitely take some small steps forward but not enough to close that two tenths.
“Over a single lap, that felt pretty good, I just expect them to turn up a little bit more tomorrow. They have almost basically got the qualifying mode that we used to have.
“I asked my guys… I don’t understand where they get it from. It is impressive and we have got to work hard to see if we can match it somehow.”
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 2, 2021
Mercedes ended FP1 with a front-row lockout, which was something of a surprise given Red Bull’s dominance at the same track last weekend.
What’s more, they continued to look stronger at the start of this weekend, with Max Verstappen topping FP1 with ease, before Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both beat him in the afternoon.
While he says his team is in better shape, Bottas puts the results down to the two teams running different practice programmes though and is expecting Red Bull to have the upper hand at the business end of the weekend.
“It’s practice, you never know what programme the others are running, but as I said it is a better feeling than last week,” he said.
“But no doubt they [Red Bull] are still strong, and I think they are still gaining to us on the straight-line which is a bit of a weakness for us, and we will all see in qualifying when everyone is turned up with the engines how it is really going to be.”