Mercedes has strong baseline "for first time" - Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton reckoned the Austrian GP marked “the first time” in the Formula 1 2017 campaign that Mercedes has started the weekend with a strong baseline.

Mercedes has strong baseline "for first time" - Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari and Giorgio Ascanelli
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

The three-time world champion broke the lap record in both Friday sessions at the Red Bull Ring, ending the day a tenth and a half up on title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

Hamilton had previously swept both Friday sessions in Australia and Spain in 2017, but he suggested the Mercedes W08 car was better through the opening day at the Austrian GP than it had been at the start of all the preceding race weekends.

“It was a smooth day generally,” Hamilton said. “For the first time, we started off with a good baseline.

“Usually we’re not so great initially and then we have to build up from it, so [I'm] happy.”

Mercedes' 2017 challenger has developed a reputation for having a narrow optimal window for its set-up, but both its drivers were left satisfied with the car's balance from the get-go at the Red Bull Ring.

Valtteri Bottas, who finished third in both sessions, said the new parts Mercedes brought to Austria – which included a “new front wing, nose [and] floor” - were working as expected.

He also said: “There's been a couple of Fridays that we've started the weekend with not a well-balanced car at all, and now at least it is more or less there, definitely much better in practice two.

“I still struggled myself to put a good lap together but the car definitely has a lot of pace. And if we can fine-tune everything, we can be really strong tomorrow.”

Hamilton added: “We got pretty much everything we needed done. The long runs were so-so. I think it’ll be fine for the race.

“But the single laps felt good we started already… for the first time this weekend we started in a good place with balance of the car and we’re just trying to finesse it.”

Ferrari's Vettel, fourth in FP1 and second in FP2, said that the Scuderia “understood” the reasons behind its deficit to Mercedes in single-lap pace in Baku but insisted the Silver Arrows were favourites again for Austrian GP pole.

He said: “I haven't seen much yet but it looks close. It's a short track, so you imagine it'll be close.

“Mercedes is the favourite. They seem very quick, whenever they went out today.

“We’ll see, today is Friday, it’s difficult to judge, the car feels really good all around the lap.”

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen – who led the Red Bull charge in both sessions, splitting Hamilton and Bottas in FP1 and taking fourth in FP2 – said of his Friday: “I am not fully happy about today and the balance of the car but we are not too far off.

“I think we could have been a bit faster. We are not too far off, but we know Mercedes can turn up the engine a bit.”

Additional reporting by Lawrence Barretto and Jonathan Noble

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