Mercedes have certainly looked like the more superior team compared to rivals, Red Bull, since their very first practice session of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Brackley outfit are possessing a flawless W12 in hand.
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes F1 Trackside Engineer, acknowledged that Lewis Hamilton has a W12 that is looking like the perfect fit for the streets of Jeddah when it comes to the engine and the design of the car on the whole.
However, the Briton admitted that the soft tires are far from the comfort zone, after having endured quite a bit of concern over the qualifying runs in FP2.
Both Hamilton and his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, constantly complained of lack of grip during their soft-tire runs, as neither of them managed to successfully complete the qualifying simulation run.
Following the FP2 session in Jeddah, Shovlin opened up about the problems the team is planning to overcome later on Friday night.
“We are happy with how the car is performing on the long run. Single lap, we were happier this morning than in the afternoon. So struggling to get the grip out of the tires. In particular, in that soft,” he told Sky Sports during the post-practice interview.
“We have some ideas on that. We understand the problem and we will just get busy tonight trying to improve it,” Shovlin added.
The qualifying session in Jeddah will play a crucial role in the insanely close championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen. Hence, Shovlin revealed that the engineers will do everything in their power to provide the 7-time world champion with a car that is capable of beating Verstappen to pole on Saturday.
“It’s as simple as that. Lewis has to win both races and it’s good to have that clarity in the objectives. We engineer a car that can get on pole – that is the fastest thing in a race that is what we need to do overnight. If we give that car to Lewis, he can do the job,” he said.
Overall, despite a scrappy session for both Hamilton and Verstappen, there is hardly anything separating the duo. And this battle could well extend into Saturday’s qualifying session scheduled following the sunset in Saudi Arabia. Hence, towards whom are the fortunes going to turn?