SPIELBERG, Austria — Mercedes has brought a significant aero upgrade to the Austrian Grand Prix in the hope of solidifying its advantage in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
After an engine upgrade saw Lewis Hamilton take a comfortable victory at last week’s French Grand Prix, Mercedes will debut a new sidepod design as well as upgrades to the rear wing and mirror supports. The combination of the new parts represents the biggest single aero upgrade the team has brought this season and Hamilton is confident it will provide another step forward.
“I know they have been working hard,” he said. “I hope it’s a significant difference this weekend and I hope that it helps us. I’m excited because when you bolt something to the car, we haven’t really bolted anything to the car this year.
“It’s one of the first real serious upgrades. It’s great when you get out there because you feel those couple of points [of downforce] straight away, in a certain corner, you feel those improvements so I’m looking forward to experiencing it tomorrow and will try and figure out where those improvements are on the circuit.”
Teammate Valtteri Bottas added: “Of course we’ll have to find out [how big a step forward it is], but it’s a decent upgrade that was very much needed like any small gain this year and I’m looking forward to trying it out. Even last week, with the engine, it was positive but now between Ferrari and us the margins are very, very small. In the past few years Mercedes had really good engines but now every small gains are important.”
Hamilton currently leads the drivers’ standings by 14 points after retaking the lead of the championship with victory in France. His main rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, crashed into Bottas on the opening lap of the race last week and went on to finish fifth. When Hamilton was asked if the first lap incident last week would mean he would change his approach to avoid a similar loss of points, the Mercedes driver said he was happy with his approach so far.
“Every single one of those drivers has had incidents, everyone of us have made mistakes. It’s like a tally you end up having – an imaginable tally – that you ultimately have. There are certain incidents where you give a driver more room and there are things you put into your memory bank so you are aware.
“I was going into Turn 1 and I knew how close Sebastian was to me, so I braked super late to avoid being hit from behind. There are certain drivers, as I said, that you give more space that others. So that’s all you have to do. I’ve been driving a long, long time, so there is nothing new that I need to learn in that respect.”