Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes are in a stronger position than ever to enhance his Formula One world championship advantage at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton, who leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 14 points, is optimistic he can extend it because of the aerodynamic updates his team have brought to the Red Bull Ring.
Hamilton won the French Grand Prix last Sunday in which Vettel finished fifth after colliding with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas at the first corner. It resulted in a 15-point swing in Hamilton’s favour.
Mercedes had brought their new, upgraded engine to France, one race later than Ferrari had introduced their power unit in Canada. The extra time allowed the team to improve the new specification to a greater extent than had been intended.
Hamilton has won only once in Austria since its grand prix returned to the calendar in 2014 but is hopeful of a better return this weekend. Mercedes have brought their first major aerodynamic upgrade to Spielberg and in a season that is likely to be decided by a highly competitive development battle, it could prove to be a crucial.
“The development race is always tight and up until now, we haven’t had a lot of development parts on the car,” Hamilton said. “I’m aware the guys are working harder and harder to ensure we bring quality rather than quantity, so it’s great to see some new bits this weekend. I’m excited to try them on track. I know how hard everyone is working back at the factory to make sure we bring the good stuff. It will undoubtedly help us.”
Hamilton is conscious his fight with Vettel is finely balanced and is maintaining his focus on the difference he can make. “I just think about how can I get the car in the right ballpark so I can do what I do. Hopefully the developments will help me do it more,” he said, while acknowledging that qualifying would be key. “Everyone has some sort of upgrades. I anticipate it being one of the closest qualifying sessions we’ve had this season. That’s my feeling.”
The changes are focused largely on the Mercedes’ side pods and the rear wing and represent a strong push to steal a march on Ferrari.
With the following grand prix at Silverstone, where Hamilton has been dominant with four wins from the past four races, extending his lead further at the Red Bull Ring would put him in a commanding position going into the final European races, where he has traditionally been strong.
The four-times world champion has been critical of the difficulty to overtake that the current generation of cars present but said the sport is heading in the right direction but that greater competition at the front remained key as F1 considers new regulations for 2021.
“Karting is wheel-to-wheel racing. That’s what got me invested in racing and really caught my heart, it’s where the passion is,” Hamilton said. “That’s what I want. I want F1 to continue to be moving in this direction, and more teams involved, and everyone getting closer and closer. I feel that means the difference I can make in the sport can be seen more, I can utilise it more.”