Mercedes: small improvement despite low-key result

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

Having ended the Imola F1 round only in P6 and P7 respectively, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both delighted with their team’s upgrade package, although they think that the steps their rivals McLaren and Ferrari have alsotaken big steps forward.

Lewis Hamilton appeared to have encouraging pace on Friday only to fall back in qualifying. The seven-time world champion complained about lack of grip in the important Saturday's session, but he looked more comfortable in his W15 on Sunday.

However, he made a mistake at the end of his first stint which saw him visit the gravel trap at the challenging Acque Minerali corner, losing around five seconds race time. Ultimately, Hamilton ended the Imola race in P6 with which he equalled his best result in 2024.

"My race was generally good. I had one moment which cost me about five seconds, but my race pace was generally strong so I’m happy with how it went. I made a good start and that was important to get past Tsunoda. From there, I was able to extend my opening stint and that helped me make the one-stop strategy work.

"We’ve taken a small step forward this weekend and we have improved. Unfortunately, that is slightly masked by the step forward others such as McLaren and Ferrari have taken. We will keep pushing to bring more updates that can add performance. Until then, we will make sure we are scoring as many points as we can," commented Hamilton.

His team-mate George Russell put an impressive lap together to end the crucial qualifying session in P6 with only a thousands of a second off fifth-quickest Carlos Sainz. His race pace also looked quite strong, but he needed a second, unplanned pit stop as the team had concerns about his hard tyres following his relatively early stop.

"We had some concerns over the Hard tyre being able to go to the end so made a second pit stop. Of course that means I lost a position to Lewis, but we were able to score one extra point as a team. It was quite a lonely race for us. We’ve slightly closed the gap to Red Bull and extended our advantage over the midfield. However, McLaren and Ferrari have also found similar gains so we are aiming to bring more performance and bigger steps as soon as we can. We’re never going to be satisfied with P6 and P7, but this is where we are at the moment.

"Everyone is super motivated and it’s very inspiring to see. Everyone at Brackley and Brixworth are working so hard to bring improvements and it’s great to see. We’ve got to keep on pushing. This weekend we maximised the package we had, and we will continue to aim to do that moving forward," said Russell.

Team boss Toto Wolff took delight from his outfit's upgrades that have been introduced over the last two rounds, but he called frustrating that Mercedes could only secure a sixth- and seventh-placed finish in the first European race of the season.

"It’s not possible to see it in terms of the result, but we have taken a small step forward this weekend. Our closest competitors have also done so recently, but we have closed the gap to the front a little. We still have a lot of work to do and of course, we are all frustrated finishing P6 and P7. There is more to come though, and it is all about making incremental gains. These are what we need to keep delivering if we are to get ourselves in the fight with the three teams ahead of us.

Expanding on the need of Russell's secdon pit stop, Wollf said: "With George’s second stop, our wear forecasts showed that he may struggle to make it last to the end of the race on the Hard tyre. We had the opportunity to pit and get out ahead of Perez, and therefore opted to stop him. That also enabled us to go for the fastest lap point. It cost George a place to Lewis but ultimately the team was able to score an additional point."

Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin was impressed by this team's upgrade package, but he stated that with the top three teams also having made enormous gains over the last weekends, the Stuttgart-based firm also needs to add more performance to its W15.

"It’s clear we have made progress this weekend, but our nearest competitors are also pushing hard. The race today confirmed that we need to continue to make these gains to be in the fight with the top-three teams. We are continuing to work on that, with the factory flat out on development. We will look to continue to bring updates to subsequent races.

"Today, the Grand Prix didn't throw us any opportunities. There were no Virtual Safety Cars or Safety Cars, so as much as P6 and P7 is frustrating, it is what our pace deserved. We're not lacking any determination or effort to improve, and over the last few weeks it has been encouraging to see the efforts that every team member has put into the drive to get back to the front."