It seems like Mercedes is not having good luck on street circuits. The Brackley team already had issues during the Monaco Grand Prix, especially with Lewis Hamilton's car: the seven time world champion failed to put together a fast lap time in qualifying, where he finished seventh, and he kept the same position until the chequered flag on Sunday race, despite two DNFs in front of him. One of the retirement was from Mercedes, as Valtteri Bottas bad luck continued.
In Baku both Mercedes drivers struggled to put together fastest times worthy of the ton ten. Sir Lewis Hamilton put himself in seventh during FP1, but was only eleventh in the final session of the day. On the other side, Valtteri Bottas scored the tenth fastest time in the inaugural session, but was only sixteenth in FP2.
The track surface was very dirty in the first free practice session, because of the strong wind of the past days; the W12 struggled with grip and "slided all around" like Bottas admitted. In FP2 both Silver Arrows looked strong in the race sim, with lap times similar to Ferrari and Red Bull, but no signs of a fastest time. Truth is, the pit wall, in a team radio to Lewis Hamilton, confirmed the Briton was running the "strap 14" mode, a very low configuration to Mercedes power unit.
The Brackley team will have a lot of work to do overnight, but only qualifying will tell if their issues will be fixed, or if the team was just sandbagging, in a weekend full of controversy about the flexible wings.
📻 "Do whatever we need to do, I'm not going to go any faster. I don't know where all the time is"— Formula 1 (@F1) June 4, 2021
Hamilton is down in P11 currently, over a second off Perez's time in P1 ⏱#AzerbaijanGP 🇦🇿 #F1 pic.twitter.com/hl7Vihs2ve
"We had a clean run and worked through everything we needed to in both sessions,it just wasn’t very fast! - admitted Lewis at the end of the day - the car felt better in P1 but in the second session, there just wasn’t more time in it, I was pushing hard but we were struggling for grip. We’re definitely a chunk of time down and I think everyone will be scratching their heads tonight, looking into the data to figure out what the issue is. The long runs were slightly better but there’s lots of work to do".
Valtteri Bottas had even an harder time in Baku. The Finnish driver was all over the news as he couldn't reach Azerbaijan, missing the press conference, but in the end he made it: seems like luck has still not turned around, considering FP2 results.
"It was very tricky for us today, we are clearly lacking pace and it feels like we’re missing overall grip and sliding around - explained Bottas - Monaco wasn’t easy but at least we were more or less there for qualifying. It’s been more of a challenging day than we anticipated and we need to figure out why. We were slightly better on the long runs but we’re still lacking pace. So overall not an easy day with lots of work to do, I think it’s going to be a long night."