It was a promising opening day of practice sessions for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team on a warm and windy day at the Algarve International Circuit, as they just shaded Red Bull Racing to top the time sheets in both sessions.
Valtteri Bottas went quickest in the first session of the day with a time of 1:19.648 with Lewis Hamilton in P5. Hamilton then topped the timesheets in FP2 with a time of 1:19.837 with Bottas finishing P3.
Mercedes programme focused on aero evaluation work and gaining a better understanding of tyre temperature performance on the slippery Algarve International Circuit.
Lewis Hamilton Expecting Tight Qualifying Tussle
Although there was a little more grip compared to 2020, windy conditions made driving tricky on the first day in Portugal. Although he came out on top, Lewis Hamilton is expecting the qualifying battle with Red Bull to go down to the wire.
‘It’s a little grippier here this year but it was very windy today so I think everybody was struggling with balance and sliding around. Not a massive amount of track evolution between the sessions – as it got hotter, the track got slower. This morning seemed to be a little bit better, then this afternoon it got warmer and windier so it seemed to make it harder for people to find time and work on their balance.’
‘I think it’ll be a close one this weekend. I don’t know what Max’s lap was like in FP2 but mine wasn’t perfect so we definitely have some time to come from the car and improvements to make. But I’m sure Red Bull have too. It was close, as it has been the last couple of races, so I’m sure it’ll be an exciting qualifying and race in store,’ said Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas Enjoys More Grip
After slipping and sliding around the very green circuit in 2020, Valtteri Bottas is enjoying having slightly more grip in 2021 as he looks to get his campaign back on track after crashing out at Imola.
‘In terms of pace, it was not a bad start – I think we are there or thereabouts. It’s going to be close, no doubt. Quite similar feelings to last year here, it’s a slippery tarmac and the rear of the car is pretty loose in places, so it’s not easy to get clean laps. For me, the softer we went with the compounds, the more tricky the car became, and the Medium tyre looks to be working best.’
‘The track has improved from last year, slightly more grip and definitely a step in the right direction. Tomorrow it is going to be important to get the heat in the tyres in the right way – it’s going to make a big difference. It will be close between us and Red Bull and could swing either way. Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole,’ said Bottas.
Mercedes Still Seek More Pace
After finding damage on both cars at the conclusion of FP2, Mercedes will be looking for more pace heading into the all-important Saturday qualifying session.
‘It’s been an interesting day. The first session was quite tricky in the cold conditions and in the afternoon it was warmer but the wind had picked up strength and was pushing the car around, affecting the balance. Valtteri seemed quite comfortable with the car, he was on the pace from the start and able to generate good grip from the tyres which allowed him to get into some useful setup investigations. Lewis struggled more with the rear end and whilst he topped the timesheets, we’ve got some work to do to improve the balance for him tomorrow.’
‘We’d found some damage on both cars at the end of the day that will have been costing some performance and will certainly explain some of Lewis’s issues on the long run but even with that corrected, we could do with finding a bit more pace. The single lap looks really close with Red Bull but Ferrari were also consistently around our pace so we’ll prepare ourselves for another close fight tomorrow. Likewise, the long runs all seem to overlay pretty closely so hopefully that’s a sign we’ll be in for an exciting race on Sunday,’ concluded Andrew Shovlin.