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The British Grand Prix is the home race for both Mercedes drivers, but things are not looking promising for either after two difficult practice sessions on Friday.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were able to step on the podium together in Barcelona and the feat repeated by the seven-time World Champion in Canada, so the revised W13 -which was introduced in Monaco- showed great promise early on.
But at the Red Bull Ring it all came undone. Both drivers had issues with the loose rear end of their car during free practice. With limited options, as qualifying took place on Friday afternoon due to the Sprint format, Mercedes elected to negate the problem by reducing the angle of the front wing, which proved to be the wrong choice during the race. Hamilton took the chequered flag in seventh, one place ahead of Russell, although the pair swapped positions after post-race penalties for track limits were applied.
At Silverstone, Mercedes hoped to bounce back, but the issues remain. Both drivers had multiple off-track excursions, as the cars looked out of balance. In the meantime, the car was one of the slowest through the speed trap, so adding downforce is not the obvious answer. And as they stated after practice on Friday, more work needs to be done, especially with the soft tyres.
Lewis Hamilton was fifteenth in Free Practice 2 and talked to Lawrence Barretto of F1 TV after the session, admitting that the team was lost in terms of setup:
It is a tough car to drive and no matter what we do to set it up, it continues to be a tough car to drive. I think on a single lap we didn’t feel any improvement between the tyres [the soft and medium compounds], which shows that something is wrong. We’re missing something. And on the long run it didn’t seem too bad, so that’s a positive at least.
George is over here with the set-up and I’m over there. He was saying I was thinking of coming over to where you are, but your lap time is slow. And I was like I was thinking of coming to where you are. We will work on it tonight, Mick [Schumacher] will do some work on the sim tonight and hopefully we will come up with something for tomorrow.
For George Russell, who finished FP2 in twelfth, things are not much better, as he also explained to F1 TV:
Definitely not our finest Friday. Conditions will be different tomorrow. We need to try to get to the bottom of it. The pace in first practice was looking quite good on the medium tyre. We thought we were right up there, if we took the soft we were nowhere, so we just need to try and understand that.
Mercedes is currently second in the constructors’ championship, but it is leading Aston Martin by just three points. Ferrari is 24 points behind the German team, but its resurgent form in Austria looks to have carried over in Silverstone, so the three-way battle looks to be getting even tighter.
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