Mercedes want to avoid ‘sting’ of second best

Date published: April 17 2021 - Michelle Foster

Lewis Hamilton marshal

Taking the 1-2 in Friday’s practice at Imola, chief engineer Andrew Shovlin says Mercedes’ aerodynamic updates are “performing correctly”.

Last time out in Bahrain, Mercedes did not top a single practice session or qualifying, losing out to Max Verstappen.

Although they did finish P1 when it mattered most, Lewis Hamilton take the win ahead of the Red Bull driver, Mercedes acknowledged they work to do to get back on par with their main rivals.

That’s what they seem to have done in the break between Bahrain and the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Mercedes used the three weeks to update their W12, running the aerodynamic improvements in Friday’s practices with Valtteri Bottas quickest in both. Hamilton made it a 1-2.

“We brought a few aerodynamic updates here and our early work confirmed that they were performing correctly,” Shovlin said on Friday evening.

“The car has also had a reasonable balance from the start which has made working through the programme relatively easy.

“Generating tyre temperature isn’t especially easy here – the air and track are cold – but at least we’re not suffering from poor rear grip like we were in Bahrain.

“The traffic has been a bit of a challenge, both drivers struggled to find clear track at times but today is about understanding the car rather than setting quick laps and I think we have done some good work in that regard.”

He did, however, add a word of caution given that Verstappen wasn’t able to complete a qualifying run on Friday afternoon after his driveshaft failed.

“We also can’t say where we stand in terms of pace as we’ve not seen Verstappen on a single lap or long run,” said Shovlin, “but both drivers are reasonably happy with how the car is working and the issues we need to solve are all within the realms of normal setup tuning.”

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Technical director James Allison said Mercedes were much happier on Friday than they had been in Bahrain with the lower temperatures helping the Brackley squad.

“It’s always a little bit easier when things are cool and the wind is low but we’ve definitely got the car happier than it was in Bahrain and we’ve had a pretty profitable couple of sessions,” he told RaceFans.

Adding that simulator work between round one and two had been focused on “trying to see the areas in which the car was protesting gently at us over there and finding a balance through the corner that works better,” he said.

“The key is nearly always the same, and that is making sure the tyres are the right temperature front and rear axle from braking through apex and on the way out.”

“I think it’s human nature that when you get stung, you leap around a bit more intensely than you might otherwise.

“We love the race, we love the fight, but we don’t enjoy feeling second best. The Red Bull was quicker than us in Bahrain and we’ve been doing our best to try and move our car forward so that we don’t have to suffer that sting any longer than we have to. But it’s nearly always pretty intense, it just goes up a notch.”

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