Lewis Hamilton urged Mercedes to “squeeze more” out of a long-awaited upgrade package, despite feeling improvements to his W14 during Friday practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton ended the day half a second behind Max Verstappen in his Red Bull as the reigning F1 champion recovered from a frustrating first session and beat the roster by 0.065s to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the second.
While the team readily admitted that Monaco’s tight, twisty nature is not the ideal place to test the upgrade, Hamilton has at least made a positive first impression, although he already senses where they are missing.
Following the rule of thumb for a package that includes new side skirts, floor and front suspension, Hamilton said: “Overall, I had an amazing day. I really enjoyed driving.
“They all put in so much time, many hours of hard work to have us here, and I’m glad we were able to keep it on track for them, and I think we have a lot of data.
“This is not the place to finally test improvements, but overall the car felt good. It’s a shame we weren’t as close as I had hoped at the end of the session, but I definitely felt an improvement.
“We just need to chip away to see if we can squeeze more juice out of the cup.”
As for whether there was any particular area where he felt the greatest improvement, the seven-time F1 champion added: “There is – I won’t say.
“It’s very clear where I’m missing a performance, so we’ll talk about that in the wrap-up.
“We’ll put our heads together and try to figure out how we can do it with what we have, but hopefully it will give us a platform to grow further.”
Despite the team’s efforts to start making up for Red Bull, Hamilton is aware of the limitations of what he will face in qualifying compared to Verstappen and Red Bull.
“In P2 we were close to half a second behind,” said Hamilton. “Maybe it could have been three-tenths, but I don’t think we have half a second to spare, so we’ll see.
“We’ll work on that and see if we can squeeze more out tonight.”
Mercedes must ‘reverse’ weekend form at Monaco – Russell
His teammate George Russell endured a difficult first hour of practice, complaining of a “weak rear”, which was at least corrected in FP2, although he was still 0.729s behind Verstappen and was only 12th fastest as the shortened track continued across the field.
“Monaco is a special circuit,” said Russell. “It’s really not the place to judge any updates or changes, and we knew the weekend was coming so we almost forget about updates. We’re talking about it next weekend (for the Spanish GP in Barcelona).
“Qualifying is obviously the most important part of this weekend and qualifying is the part of the weekend where we generally struggle. When you look at the last 18 months, we always do better on Sunday.
“We’ve got to try to figure out a few things overnight and turn them around for this weekend, but there are definitely some positive signs.”
Regarding his assessment of where Mercedes will be this weekend in the battle of qualifying and the race, he added: “Hopefully with Aston and Ferrari. That’s where we’re headed. Of course, Red Bull is in a class of its own right now.
“Midfield is tight. We have seen many times this year that McLaren, Alpine and even Haas pop up ahead of us on Saturday, but they are nowhere to be found on Sunday.
“But if they can do it this Saturday, they’ll probably be with us this Sunday, so we need to work on our qualifying pace for this event, re-evaluate and come back next week.”
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