Mercedes were left scratching their heads after the first day of practice, as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’s on track running was hindered due to red flags in both sessions, with Hamilton’s day further affected after suffering a loss of power at the beginning of the second Practice session.
The current World Champions had a tricky start to the weekend when Hamilton, who comes into this weekend with a three-point lead in the drivers’ championship over home hero Max Verstappen stopped out on track early on in the second Practice session with a rare Mercedes power unit failure forcing Hamilton to watch the rest of the session in the garage.
Hamilton had set the early pace in a shortened first Practice session when he pipped Verstappen to the top of the timesheets by less than a tenth of a second with teammate Bottas fifth quickest in the morning session before finishing the afternoon session fourth quickest with Hamilton classified 11th after his limited running.
Despite it being a tough day at the office, Hamilton praised the newly updated Zandvoort circuit as he returns to the Dutch venue for the first time since 2005, where he took a pair of victories in the Formula 3 Euro Series on his way to becoming that year’s champion.
“This track is epic. It brought back so many memories when I first got out there, from when I drove here before. I knew it was great when I was in Formula 3, but in a Formula One car it is just something else. It’s a shame I couldn’t complete more running, but the loss of power cut my FP2 short quite early on.”
“I’ve got some catching up to do and we need to investigate the issue in more detail, but it’s not the end of the world. The car wasn’t feeling too bad, in the limited running I had, and Valtteri had a productive FP2, so we’ll have plenty of learnings to take from that. It was amazing to see the crowd here today, there were so many people out there and the Dutch fans bring so much energy. I hope it’s a great weekend for everyone.”
Bottas also praised the Zandvoort circuit, as the Finn looks forward to tomorrow’s qualifying session, which looks poised to be close between both Ferraris, both Mercedes and local hero Verstappen.
“Overall, it was a good day for me, and I enjoyed it out on track. It’s an exciting track to drive, with all the banked corners and high-speed sections. It’s got a nice flow and it’s fairly easy to settle into a rhythm.”
“I’m sure tomorrow in Qualifying will be even more fun. It was quite a disrupted day with a lot of red flags, but even so, I got quite a lot of laps in, particularly in FP2 where we did some proper running on both single lap and long runs. I’m sure we have plenty of data to go through. The margins look small, which is nice to see, so everything is possible.”
Mercedes’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin stated the team we’re losing time into Turns two and three but remained confident of making up for lost time in tomorrow’s third Practice session.
“We’ve had a tricky day with red flags costing us a lot of running time in the first session and then Lewis had an issue with his car, so we had to stop on track. Everyone has struggled with a lack of running so there isn’t masses of data to work with and many had low fuel runs that were compromised with traffic, so we have to expect many teams to move forward tomorrow.”
“We’re struggling a bit with Turn 2-3, we seem to be losing there on both low and high fuel but we’ve got a bit of time tonight to understand that. There are a few other places we can improve the balance but overall, it doesn’t seem too far off. We have to recover a bit of running with Lewis but there is time to do that in the morning session.”