Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were stunned by how close the field were in practice today, especially McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine.
Mercedes ended both FP1 and FP2 in the top 3, after a solid day at the track which has treated them so well in the past. Despite this, there’s very little performance gap between them and the rest of the pack. This seemingly shocked both Hamilton and Bottas, who expected only Red Bull to be nagging them throughout the weekend.
“It’s been a good start to the weekend, the track is awesome and our balance is similar to what we had in the last race,” Hamilton said.
“It looks close but I think we’ve got good pace – we understand the car and know which direction we need to go balance-wise. It’s amazing to see the progress that McLaren, Ferrari, and Alpine are making, not just Red Bull, and that puts pressure on us.”
“It was a solid day, the feeling in the car was not too bad and no massive balance issues so I’m fairly happy,” Bottas added.
“On the soft tire, getting both axles working straightaway for lap one is going to be key because the gaps will be so small. The whole field seems to be close and Ferrari looked strong today but we just need to focus on our performance and extract the maximum from this package.”
Crucially, this means Mercedes may not quite have the gap needed to get through Q2 on the medium tire, which could add spice to the race on Sunday