Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2019

Mercedes drivers “blown away” by car’s improvement

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas say they did not expect to qualify so far ahead of Ferrari for the Australian Grand Prix.

The pair locked out the front row of the grid. Hamilton’s pole position time was seven-tenths of a second faster than Mercedes’ closest rivals, Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

“I’m a bit blown away by the performance we have today,” said Bottas, who will start from second on the grid. Mercedes had a similar margin over Ferrari yesterday but may assumed their rivals were disguising their true potential.

“Obviously yesterday was looking good but it’s always practice, said Bottas. “It’s just the first session this year that really counts in terms of lap time and I don’t think anyone in the team could have imagined we’d be in this position after the testing we had.

“But everyone’s been working so hard. that made this possible. But it’s only one session, tomorrow is the main day.”

Hamilton said the team’s progress since testing has come from understanding the car and making set-up changes rather than adding new parts.

[mpuzweeler01]”Coming from Barcelona we’ve made some really big steps forward in the last couple of days with set-up and we brought that here and it seems to have worked. But there was also a little bit of work done after the two weeks where we analysed everything and made some small corrections.

“I really was not expecting to see the performance difference that we have here. It had been so close throughout the whole weekend between us.”

Hamilton made a mistake on his first run in Q3 and Bottas was on course to take pole position until Hamilton improved on his final run.

“The second lap was definitely a lot better than the first which is not always the case,” said Hamilton. “It’s always quite difficult on the second lap to pull that amount of time out.

“But the first lap I made a mistake, which is unusual for me. But it was OK I just brushed it off and kept moving. We just kept working away, chipping away at our pace, our balance throughout the weekend.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Mercedes drivers “blown away” by car’s improvement”

  1. Indeeeeeeed……

  2. Well done Mercedes and Hamilton. With significant rule changes they once again proved to be a superior engineering team to Ferrari.

    1. Well done Bottas, too. His pace was solid. He’s to prove himself tomorrow.

  3. If Mercedes were a poker player…

  4. Great turnaround by the Mercedes team. The depth in engineering the team has is amazing and it shows why they are 5 times World Champions and still going strong.
    But nothing for fans of close racing to be worried about. Melbourne track is an atypical street track and on a smooth ‘normal’ track, Ferrari and RBR would be closer.
    Last year the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari after qualifying was similar yet Vettel was in position to win the first 4 races.

    1. Maybe. Mercedes’ design focus this year seems to have been on aero, previously their weaker area, so I doubt the track differences will pan out in quite the same way. Depends a lot on how adapting the aerodynamics to the new regulations, particularly the front, affects tyre heating at different circuit layouts and temperatures.

  5. The motorsport.com article about this had an interesting bit (usually no need to look when racefans got there already, but not this time!):

    “It is a real shock.”

    Hamilton repeated his Friday claim that Mercedes had not made changes to the car itself since testing.

    He also said the change in fortune between the teams, and the videos of Vettel’s laps in testing, meant he had even asked his rival if Ferrari had run the car so low on fuel that they were “on fumes” at Barcelona.

    “He says he wasn’t,” added Hamilton. “It is a difficult circuit [Albert Park] and it is quite gusty here as well.

    LOL, that’s the sort of thing I’d expect Vettel to make a quip about, but it really does seem that both Ferrari and Mercedes were caught off guard by the (amount of) reversal in fortunes.

    Of course, last year Hamilton also was on pole by over half a second here, so yeah, “we have to wait and see in the next races, it’s too early to conclude anything definite about the pace of the cars” and all.

    1. It does appear that the Ferrari is more susceptible to gusty wind conditions than the Mercedes. FP2 was a bit less windy, and the gap seemed to be less. I wonder if the shallower, less aggressive front wing is allowing the wind to interfere with the front tires (based partly on the “Secret Aerodynamicist” article on BBC, and partly on a wild guess).

  6. Oh please … pull the other one.
    They expect us to believe they found 1.2sec in 2 weeks with no on-track testing …

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