Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes are right in the ballpark to fight with the outright quickest teams at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished Friday’s track time at Zandvoort in fourth place overall, wrapping up just over three-tenths away from the outright pace set by McLaren’s Lando Norris.
The action at the very front of the pack was very close, with Norris just pipping championship leader and home hero Max Verstappen by 0.023 seconds, with the Red Bull driver quarter of a second clear of Alex Albon’s Williams in third.
Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes still have work to do
A beaming Lewis Hamilton, who came into the weekend resolute with the goal of beating Sergio Perez to second place in the Drivers’ Championship, was pleased with his day’s work behind the wheel of the W14.
“It was great,” he said.
“I woke up this morning so excited to get in the car. FP1 was actually a really good session for us, the cars been good from the get-go. It’s great work from everyone at the factory.
“We made some changes over from FP1 to FP2, it wasn’t as good, but it’s good data to have.”
Trying to gauge whereabouts Mercedes are in the pecking order, Hamilton said that the Brackley-based squad are in the mix near the front.
“So we’ve got some work to do tonight to see if we can turn it around for tomorrow,” he said.
“We’re there or thereabouts, we’re not as quick as the Red Bulls and, obviously, McLaren were really quick. So we’ve got some work to do.”
As for where he feels Mercedes are lacking compared to the outright fastest, Hamilton said he suspects its the first sector of the lap that’s the main culprit.
“It’s a little bit everywhere,” he said.
“McLaren were much quicker in the first sector than us. I think, on the long run, it’s tyre overheating, which I think everyone’s had.
“It’s trying to make sure you extract the most out of the tyres and get the tyres into the right window to start your lap. I think we’ve been slow in the first sector but good in the last sector, so just trying to find the right balance.”
As for where Mercedes’ main competition is this weekend, Hamilton said he feels there’s no team clearly ahead of his own – a good sign as Mercedes aim to consolidate P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.
“[We’re] right with them, hopefully,” he said.
“The Red Bull’s a little bit quick, as always. So I don’t necessarily anticipate we will easily be able to beat them. But I think we’re going to be close.”
With overtaking at a premium at the tight and twisty Zandvoort, Hamilton’s goal is clear – the Mercedes man wants to be as high as possible in qualifying to set himself up for a strong Grand Prix.
“I want to get up as high up as possible because it’s not so easy to overtake here, so we’ll be gunning for as high of qualifying as possible,” he said.
“It’d be great to be able to be in the top three in quali. It just depends on the job that we do tonight.”
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