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The Silver Arrows have been constructors’ champions every year since 2014, but have been unable to match the pace set by early frontrunners Ferrari and Red Bull so far this season, meaning Hamilton and teammate George Russell have been unable to challenge for race victories.
Mercedes have been struggling after transitioning to F1’s new set of technical regulations, which have undergone their biggest revision in a generation. A return to ground effect aerodynamics for the first time since the 1980s has brought with it an unexpected aerodynamic quirk known as porpoising, which is the name given to the phenomenon whereby cars bounce up and down violently at high speeds on long straights.
The team’s W13 has suffered from porpoising more than most of its rivals, and seven-time Hamilton sits a lowly sixth in the standings after the opening five rounds of the season. But in the two practice sessions which took place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Friday, Mercedes seemed to take a significant step forward, ending the day second and third fastest behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with an enormous reduction in the intensity of porpoising.
If that kind of pace can be maintained on Friday, the Brackley-based squad seem to have the potential to challenge for their first pole position of the campaign. Hamilton spoke afterwards of his gratitude for the hard work put into finding solutions for the car’s weaknesses by the team’s technical personnel.
“It is positive,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “I am super happy with the progress. We’re not the quickest yet but I think we’re on our way. It is the first time we have driven down the straight without bouncing. We still have some bouncing but it is way better and we are starting to eke into the potential of the car.
“It is still tough but it is much nicer than it has been before. I am grateful for the upgrades. We just need to fine-tune them. I think we can get it into a better place tomorrow to tackle the heels of the guys up ahead.”