Mercedes have explained just how much their Austrian Grand Prix weekend was compromised by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell's crashes during Friday's qualifying. After displaying strong pace in the earlier stages of the session, Hamilton hit the barriers in Q3, bringing out the red flags. Just moments after the action resumed, Russell suffered a similar incident, again bringing a pause to qualifying. The team were able to repair the cars in time for Free Practice 2 on Saturday, though Russell was able to get out on track earlier in the hour than Hamilton. Both drivers scored points in the Sprint, with Russell finishing P4 and Hamilton P8, while their race result was even better. Russell again ended the day in fourth, but Hamilton worked his way up to a podium position by taking third.
Crashes made for "very difficult weekend"
Despite this result, Mercedes have detailed in a race debrief video just how much the incidents on Friday impacted their whole weekend at the Red Bull Ring. Mike Elliott, the team's Technical Director, explained: "When you crash two cars, it's always going to make for a very difficult weekend from then onwards. "We've done quite a lot of damage to the cars so, we've broken both floors, we've broken both rear wings, we damaged quite a lot of suspension, and on Lewis' car we also damaged the front wing and [suffered] some cosmetic damage to the chassis." This was all fixable, but was not something that could be repaired quickly. "[It was] damage that we can repair, but not repair over a weekend," Elliott continued. "That meant completely rebuilding Lewis' car from scratch, and it meant also trying to build one floor out of two. We had one complete spare we could fit, and we had to get the best out of the two crashed floors to build another."
Problems for Russell's rear wing
An additional effect of this was that, while Hamilton was given a new rear wing to help him in working his way through the field, Russell had to use an alternative. "It also meant we were compromised on George's rear wing," Elliott said. "We only had one complete spare rear wing that we chose to fit to Lewis' car because he was going to have to come through the field, which meant that George had to fit a rear wing which was probably not the ideal level of downforce. "It was a bit too much downforce for that circuit."
A race against time for Mercedes
Mercedes were then faced with the challenge of perfecting the cars' set-up during Free Practice 2, in which they had little time to do so. "Having rebuilt the cars, we also had to dial in the set-up again," Elliott added. "You've got very limited time in FP2 to do that, and that was always going to be another compromise." Hamilton and Russell also had to be cautious during Saturday's Sprint race, with Elliott admitting that any further damage could have put them at risk on not being able to compete in the main Grand Prix. "Having damaged two cars as badly as we did on Friday, the drivers are now in a position where, if we damage them in the Sprint race, we may well be in a position where we couldn't race on Sunday," he explained. "So, all of that has to be factored in, and all of that sort of compromises your weekend."