Mercedes at a loss to explain 'bruising day' in Austria


Lewis Hamilton and George Russell might have salvaged a double points finish for Mercedes in Austria, but team principal Toto Wolff admitted it had been a bruising day for them - and a mystery loss of performance.

The squad thought it was on the way back after new upgrades introduced in time for Spain saw the two drivers finish on the podium, with Hamilton finishing third in the following race in Canada.

But the team has struggled badly this weekend, with setbacks in qualifying for the sprint race leaving Hamilton languishing out of the points and Russell just eighth on Saturday.

Any hopes of a bounce back in the main race on Sunday were swiftly dashed when Hamilton struggled to turn the car into corners at the start of the race, and ended up earning himself a penalty for exceeding track limits.

Read also: Imperious Verstappen wins again to sweep Austria

"It was not the greatest of days today. We weren't expecting to be as slow as we were and our performance this weekend was a surprise," admitted Hamilton.

"I took out a lot of front wing because we knew we had a really bad rear end here," he told the media in the paddock at the Red Bull Ring after the finish. "So I took it out to maintain that balance and go long.

"I massively under estimated it and I was almost full lock at the final corners: going into turn 10, it was just sliding," he said. "That's why I was struggling with track limits.

"We added some front-wing at both stops and the car began to come back to us, but it was still a challenge."

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 02.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Having started from fifth, Hamilton ended the race in P7 while Russell battled his way up from 11th after a poor qualifying to finish in P8. But it was not what the team had been hoping for or expecting at this stage of the season.

"I definitely didn't expect us to be as bad. I don't really have an answer for it," Hamilton said. "The feeling of the car was very much the same as we've had over the last year.

"Compared to the last two races, the last two races are way better," he noted. "We don't have the answer as to why just yet, but this track has highlighted several areas of improvement we need to focus on."

"I was hoping for a little bit more from the Grand Prix," concurred his team mate. "I am sure we will go away and get to the bottom of our performance here.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 02.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"Our performance is clearly circuit dependent now," Russell added. "We were nowhere here but good in Montreal and Barcelona. That bodes well for Silverstone as that is a circuit more similar to Barcelona than Austria."

Wolff was clearly disappointed and frustrated when he spoke to Sky Sports F1 afterwards. "Our car had no pace today,” he said. “It’s a bruising day I would say because we had such a good upward trend.

"And then you have to take such a day," he sighed. “There was no pace. No inkling why yet ... "The moment you slide those tyres, either on braking or through the corners, you just have no grip - and this is what happened."

Having been handed a penalty for track limits, Hamilton had been increasingly frustrated during the race when he observed other drivers such as Lando Norris and Sergio Perez also running wide, but not getting warnings.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid. 02.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"As soon as he got past me he went off like at least ten times," Hamilton commented about the McLaren driver. "And so did Perez, he went off [at] turn 9 and turn 10."

Hamilton's complaints about the situation grew to the point where Wolff had so intervene over the team radio: Wolff interjected: "Lewis the car is bad, we know. Please drive it."

Aston Martin subsequently filed an official protest about the number of instances in which drivers seemed to exceed track limits without getting picked up on it by race control.

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