Despite dominating the opening day of the Austrian Grand Prix, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas refused to acknowledge that their W11 was the dominant force today when the F1 field returned racing following the unprecedented coronavirus-induced shutdown.
Lewis Hamilton got his title challenge off to the perfect start in Spielberg, dominating the Friday practice sessions around the Red Bull Ring. The pre-season testing indicated in February that Mercedes could be in a class of its own in 2020 which has been confirmed by today’s results.
Although the Brackley-based outfit conducted a private test at Silverstone to weeks ago, Hamilton was delighted to get back in to his 2020 car that felt much different to the Mercedes’ 2018 car used during the test run. The Briton said that he felt big improvements with his brand-new machine compared to his car from last year.
“It was great to be back. It’s been a long time coming, so feels great to feel the new car since February, quite a big difference to the car we got to test at Silverstone. I don’t remember what I was like in February to be honest, honestly it was so long ago. What’s positive is the car felt good today, definitely feels like in general compared to last year we have continued to improve the car and that is a positive.”
Despite not denying that Mercedes’ 2020 car, the W11 felt good during the opening sessions of the 2020 season, Hamilton said that different set-ups, engine modes and fuel levels could hide the real picture.
“It’s definitely looking good out there but you can never take too much from practice and if you look at some of the other teams they were maybe down on power modes or up on power modes or fuel or whatever it may be. So we’ll take it with a pinch of salt, try to improve the car tonight and come back with it tomorrow,” Hamilton concluded.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas agreed to the Briton, claiming that Mercedes has to wait until the qualifying session to find out whether it is really at the front of the field.
“We see the threat,” he said. “It’s only Friday, it’s only practice and I don’t think any team has yet taken out all the performance they have.
“I’m sure, like I said, the lap times will come down tomorrow, from the track but also from the teams and the drivers’ side, so, it’s way too early to say. But it’s not too bad right now,” Bottas added.