Mercedes expects "solid pace" in Sunday's Barcelona race

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Mercedes brought another upgrade in the form of a lighter floor which helped the Brackley-based team to further close in on the field-leading McLaren and Red Bull squads.

Lewis Hamilton set the benchmark in second practice on Friday and he continued to impress in final practice. The Briton was ultimately unable to challenge for pole position, but his third starting position has still his best result of 2024.

"This is another encouraging result for us as a team. Everyone has been working so hard to bring updates and improvements to the car, making incremental gains and small steps over the season so far. We are starting to become more consistent too and that is huge for us.

"That is down to every member of the team putting in the extra hours and I want to say a big thank you to them. The car is getting more enjoyable to drive. Today, the gap was three tenths, but I think in reality it was less as we didn’t get everything out of the car on that last lap.

I am going into tomorrow focused on trying to fight for the win. We are in a good starting spot with that long run down to turn one. Degradation will also play a key role tomorrow and I think our long runs in practice looked strong in that respect. I hope that translates into Sunday and we can have a good afternoon.

His team-mate George Russell ended up fourth fastest, just fractionally behind Hamilton. The Briton indicated that he failed to get the best out of car.

"The car has been feeling great this weekend. Our pace was strong throughout practice, and we felt confident going into Qualifying. A second-row lock-out is a decent result but the gap to Norris and Verstappen was slightly bigger than we expected.

"Both mine and Lewis set good laps, but I don’t think either of us felt that we maximised them. Getting the tyres perfectly in the window around a challenging track like this is so difficult. I think those ahead managed to do that and maybe we didn’t today.

"On a circuit like this, the ultimate race pace of a car will always win out. I think our race pace looked good throughout the weekend so far and I hope we can fight for the podium and potentially victory. The recent steps we’ve taken with the car are clearly helping and we’re looking forward to building on that momentum," noted Russell.

Team boss Toto Wolff was delighted with results, but he was left frustrated by the fact that the balance of the W15 was less optimal compared to what it showed on Friday.

"P3 and P4 is a solid result. The car balance wasn’t quite as good as on Friday though. Added to that, both drivers felt that there was little more time left out there. The gap to pole position was slightly larger than we had envisaged throughout practice, therefore. That was a little frustrating, but it is positive that we were able to get ourselves ahead of the Ferraris.

"Our attention now turns to race day. Our long run pace looked solid throughout practice, but it was similar to others around us. Hopefully we can be in the mix though and take the fight to those ahead. It will be a race determined by that pace coupled with tyre degradation, so let’s see what we can do."