Max Verstappen scored the first pole position of the 2021 Formula 1 season yesterday, with a 3-tenths gap to Lewis Hamilton in P2. The reigning world champion now explained, that he would have expected a bigger gap though.
The 7-time world champion declared, that his team is closer to the Red Bull cars than it expected to be. “I think this is a really good step forward for us,” he said, talking about the steps forward, which the team made since the disastrous performance at pre-season testing two weeks ago. The British driver, who got knighted by Queen Elizabeth at the beginning of the year, also revealed, that he “absolutely gave it everything [he] had, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”
Still, the expected gap to their strongest rival Red Bull was a lot bigger for the Silver Arrows than reality showed it. “Coming in this weekend we [Mercedes] thought it was double the gap that you see today.” Further, he pointed out the work of the team’s employees to achieve the smaller gap to the 4-time constructors’ world champions Red Bull: “[…] that’s really down to some really fantastic work from the men and women back at the factory and people here [at the track]. Just collectively, just all pulling together,” Hamilton told media.
Considering the work on the car since pre-season testing, Hamilton explained that “there’s been no development; it’s just really been about fine-tuning the car and trying to understand the envelope that they have. It’s different to last year’s with these changes, and so they are down in certain places, but it’s going to take some time to catch those up. But it might be specific to here and not elsewhere, maybe.”
The work from Mercedes on their new W12 car was concentrated on fine-tuning the car instead of developing it, which means that tweaking the package from two weeks ago was the main goal for the German manufacturer. Also, Hamilton described, that “it’s hard to do a huge amount” of changes in such a short period.
About the upcoming race the world champion answered the question on If Mercedes can beat Red Bull, as the data from race simulations on Friday promised that both teams are equal in that area. Hamilton replied in a humble way: “It will be difficult to say. I think [if] they’ve got the pace gap they have [in qualifying]… usually they carry that through into the race – they’re very strong in race conditions. I’d like to think we can close up a little bit, but I think they’ve got at least two-tenths in hand.”