Mercedes brought a series of upgrades for the W13 car on the Barcelona-Catalonia route for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend in hopes of alleviating the problem of defeat that demolished Hamilton and his teammate George Russell this year.
Mercedes has shown signs of improving the relative pace to Red Bull and Ferrari through practice, and briefly led the time table in the second quarter when its competitors decided to complete their first runs on used tires.
Russell qualified fourth, winning Sergio Perez at Red Bull, and Hamilton finished the session sixth, 0.762 seconds from the time of Charles Leclerc’s pole position.
Although after qualifying Hamilton noted that he was “in the same position as in the last race”, he was enthusiastic about the progress that Mercedes had made to alleviate the problem of defeat.
“We don’t have straight-line jumps, which is a huge, huge difference,” Hamilton said.
“But we still have some jumps, like turn 3 and turn 9. So we still need to make some improvements, but the car is much better.”
Hamilton added: “You see, in the second quarter we were the fastest. So it’s a glimmer of hope for the team.”
Hamilton is sixth in the race after five races, beating leader Leclerc by 68 points, leaving serious doubt in any hope of fighting for a record eighth world title this year.
Asked if a step forward in Barcelona gives him some hope that he can return to the title race this year, Hamilton replied: “I don’t really think about it, I’m still far away.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo: Zak Mauger / Drawings of motorsport
“My teammate is fourth, so the car has to be at least third or fourth, and I’m sixth. So I’m still struggling with the car.
“I don’t know how to get around it, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to keep trying and working hard on myself.”
Russell agreed with Hamilton’s assessment that the guinea pig remained a problem when cornering, but said the car could now be launched closer to the ground than before.
“Through the turns themselves, it was not fundamentally different, we just had more grip, and we could bring the car closer to the ground, and we know that this will lead to a solution to the defeat,” said Russell.
“But I think we’ve lost a lot of total squeezing force to achieve that, and the car is probably not as fast as we would like at the moment to fight the guys at the forefront.
“Now we know it’s our baseline, we can really build on that and find a lot more performance.”
Russell added that he is “confident” that the updates have put Mercedes “much more in the mix” against Ferrari and Red Bull, which swept the first five races of the season.
“We just have to look at today, it was not the best day, and yet we achieved the best result in the team,” said Russell.
“We’ve always been there in the top three, in the top four, usually all weekend, and this is the first time all weekend that we’ve been at the top of the schedule during the qualifying session,” Russell said.
“It’s been an easier weekend for us and we’re excited to see what the next race will bring. It’ll still take a couple more races until we really find a much bigger pace.”