Mercedes say experiments conducted on their F1 cars resulted in the team falling “backwards” during second practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After a fairly competitive showing in FP1, Mercedes struggled for pace in second practice, with George Russell ending Friday as their fastest driver in eighth place, 0.910s slower than Charles Leclerc’s benchmark.
Things were even worse for Hamilton as the seven-time world champion finished 11th and two tenths further back from teammate Russell, who was behind both McLarens, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking after second practice, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained why his team had fallen so far behind in the afternoon.
“We came in sort of wanting to do some experiments with the car and I think the ones that we did in FP2 with both [drivers] have taken us backwards,” Shovlin told Sky.
“The first session we looked a bit stronger, the car was more together. There’s a couple of things that I’m pretty certain we are going to be undoing overnight, because it didn’t look great.”
Shovlin added: “Lewis had picked up a bit of damage during one of his lower fuel runs and that definitely affected his high fuel.
“But I think some of the set-up changes we made, we’ve gone the wrong way. We’re here to learn and you don’t always get them making the car going quicker, but I think there’s two of those that we’ll be going back on overnight.”
Mercedes are hoping the forecast for a potentially wet qualifying on Saturday proves to be right after a tricky first day of running in Hungary.
“In a way that makes it not too bad that we’ve had a difficult FP2, because I think we’ll be facing quite different conditions in FP3 and quali, and then the race looks like it’ll be a lot cooler than it is today,” said Shovlin.
“So [it’s] not the end of the world but it would be nice to have a session where you can work with the car a bit, and this wasn’t that.
“There’s plenty of data for us to go through. I think we know the first things we want to do and then the wet’s a different game altogether.”
Asked whether rain could bring Mercedes back into the game, Shovlin responded: “It’s guesswork whether you’ll be better or worse.
“Montreal we were okay in the wet, Silverstone we were okay. And where we were today, I think we’ll take a wet session because I think it gives us a bigger potential upside.
“But we need to get running in FP3 and see what we’re dealing with.”
Mercedes facing ‘tough weekend’
Hamilton, an eight-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner, believes Mercedes are in for a tough weekend at the Hungaroring after their difficult start on Friday.
Following a wide moment at Turn 4 in the closing stages of FP2, Hamilton reported his car felt “unstable”, while he was also seen locking up on several occasions.
“The car is a bit of a struggle today, it’s crazy how it swings so much from track to track,” said Hamilton. “But just set-up, just trying to figure out how we can get the car working at the moment. It’s a little bit loose and it’s not doing what we want it to do, so a difficult day.
“Nothing’s changed on the car this week and I’m the same driver this week as I was last week, but it’s just for some reason this track it’s not working as well,” he added. “But I think once we got it right the gap is about the same as last week – around a second.”
Hamilton also revealed that damage to the floor of his W13 disrupted his long runs.
“I didn’t get to run at the end because I sustained some damage on my floor so I lost a lot of downforce, and after that it was pretty tricky for the long run pace,” he explained.
“So it’s going to be a tough weekend, that’s for sure, but we’ll give it everything and see what we’ve got.”
But teammate Russell remains optimistic that Mercedes can still salvage a good result from the weekend.
“We were definitely a little bit further away than we would have expected,” he admitted.
“There were a couple of issues here and there but I think tomorrow’s going to be a totally new day. And Sunday will also be a different day – so it’s not lost yet.”