Mercedes has been left encouraged by signs that their recent upgrades have been working after another step forward at the Austrian Grand Prix. The team had a slightly compromised weekend at the Red Bull Ring following crashes for both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell during the final stages of Friday's qualifying session. However, both drivers went on to score points in Saturday's Sprint, as well as securing another double points finish in Sunday's main race, which also brought Hamilton his third consecutive podium.
How promising pace contributed to qualifying crashes
Given that the W13 had displayed promising pace in Friday's opening practice session, Mercedes' Technical Director Mike Elliott thinks that this was what ultimately may have led to the incidents that Hamilton and Russell suffered. "As always, we've got two fantastic drivers, and Lewis is always going to bring home the best result he can get from the car," Elliott explained in a Mercedes race debrief video, in response to a question about Hamilton's overall pace in Austria. "On Friday, we were encouraged by the pace we had. I think in qualifying we were going through the various qualifying sessions thinking we had a strong chance to get ourselves on the front row of the grid, a position we haven’t found ourselves in in recent races. "[That's] possibly why we ended up with two accidents with both cars, in that the drivers were just trying to find that extra little bit in the car, trying to get ourselves onto that front row of the grid, [given] the potential pace we believe we had in that car."
How Hamilton's pace matched up to Ferrari
Elliott acknowledges that it was "difficult" for Hamilton to show his pace during the Sprint due to getting stuck in DRS (Drag Reduction System) trains with other cars. However, the seven-time World Champion was more able to get ahead of slower cars during Sunday's Grand Prix. "While we finished the race quite a chunk off the front, some of that was because the Ferraris and the Red Bull were able to stop under that VSC [Virtual Safety Car] at the end and stop onto the Medium tyre and effectively get a cheap stop," Elliott said. "If you correct the pace for degradation, we think we were probably two, maybe three tenths behind the Ferrari, which was the quickest car in the race this weekend."
Mercedes encouraged by effectiveness of upgrades
With Hamilton able to achieve this kind of pace, Elliott admits that this is good evidence of Mercedes' recent car updates paying off. "While [being behind Ferrari and Red Bull] is not where we aim to be – we want to be fighting at the front, we want to be the quickest car we possibly can be – compared to where we have been over the course of the season, in circuits like this I think that's a good result for us," Elliott continued. "It shows that the bits we are bringing to the car are starting to make the step forward we want to make, and hopefully we can keep making those steps forward and get ourselves into a position where we can compete at the front in every race."