Mercedes admit it was a ‘messy Friday’ after high early Spa hopes

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver George Russel at Eau Rouge. Spa August 2022.

George Russell's Mercedes has sparks flying as it ascends Eau Rouge. Spa August 2022.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said it was a “messy Friday” for the team, with neither driver faring well in free practice at Spa.

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell suffered with different issues at different times, neither driver able to make the most of the hard compound tyres in FP1 or FP2.

The team had hoped to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull in the Belgian Grand Prix, with their improvements having steadily brought them closer to the front as the season has progressed.

Mercedes also brought several upgrades with them to Belgium, with the aim of pushing for the race win.

But the team struggled to get to grips with their package on Friday, with Hamilton losing a full second compared to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the middle sector during their qualifying simulations in FP2, admitting afterwards they are “a long way off” after practice.

Shovlin admitted there is still work to be done to get Mercedes on terms with the top teams, although a mixed-up grid will feature on Sunday with six drivers having taken engine penalties.

“Quite a messy day with a bit of rain and a red flag, but we were able to get a read on the main issues to work on overnight,” Shovlin said.

“Our single-lap performance clearly needs a bit of focus, neither driver had a good feel for the soft tyres and probably we are not getting it into the right window.

“There wasn’t much useful learning on a long run given the conditions. We had the hard tyres in the second session, which was particularly difficult in the cool and damp but the mediums were  working reasonably well in FP1.

“Clearly there is an opportunity with the number of cars that are taking penalties, but we need to find a bit of pace overnight if we are to capitalise on that.”

Russell added: “Tyre temperature is something we’ve struggled with this season and I struggled quite a lot on every compound today.

“In these conditions, it’s definitely something we need to work on. But we know once you get temperatures in the right window, you can find a huge amount of performance so there’s a little optimism there.

“We are pretty used to having bad Fridays so let’s see if we can turn it around. I don’t think there’s any guarantee we can find the performance we had in the last race but we’ll be working flat out tonight to try and get on top of it.”