Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Friday’s performance has stirred the soul of Mercedes, as Lewis Hamilton starts from the front of the grid for Saturday’s sprint race at Silverstone, ahead of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton, cheered on by home fans, set the pace on Friday in a new trial format taking place across the weekend, which sees Friday’s qualifying set the grid for Saturday’s 17 lap race, with the results determining the grid on Sunday.
The Briton currently sits 32 points behind Max Verstappen in the driver standings, with Red Bull pulling out a 44 lead in the team standings thanks to five wins on the bounce from the Milton Keynes-based team.
Yet, at a track that suits Mercedes with nine pole positions in a row, with seven wins alone for Hamilton at Silverstone, Wolff admits perhaps the tides are turning.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 if the result ‘stirred the soul’ of the team, Wolff replied: “Yeah, it does.
“It is good to come back, especially the pace of both drivers. Lewis could have probably been another three-tenths up if it wouldn’t have been for the rallying at the end. So it is good, I am happy about the pace.”
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Hamilton had demanded Mercedes bring upgrades to their car, if they’re to stay in the battle with Red Bull and Verstappen this season, with Mercedes’ chief technical officer James Allison confirming new parts were to come ahead at Silverstone.
However, Wolff added the upgrades to the W12 weren’t the sole reason for their performance on Sunday.
“Not the upgrades. I think it is refined bits everywhere,” explained the Austrian.
“I think the tyres were in the right window and the sweet spot of the car… you can see how it can fluctuate from Verstappen being completely dominant in the morning session and then it swings the other way around.”
Mercedes have won seven championships on the bounce, dominating the hybrid era since 2014, but arguably this is the toughest test they’ve seen yet with a rapid Red Bull to keep up with.
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And for Wolff, it’s not something they ever took for granted.
“We see it as a test because we had seven championships in a row, we were never complacent, we were always humble about it and worrying that someone could catch us up,” he said.
“Then suddenly we find ourselves this year with a change of regulations that bite us more than we expected so there is something to learn and also, we are behind.
“It is something we have talked about in the last few years about how we would react if that happens, now, it is the test and we can see whether we can do what we have expected or not but it doesn’t win you a championship, but it allows you to stay in the hunt and I am happy how we have reacted so far.”
Sprint qualifying gets underway at 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon to decide the grid for the main event on Sunday around the Northampton circuit.
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