Mercedes’ strategic director James Vowles says his team is expecting a ‘challenging’ weekend in Imola as they do not expect a better edition of their car, but hope the announced improvements at a later stage of the season will bring them closer to the top.
Mercedes had the third fastest car in the first three races of the new season, and thanks to Red Bull’s reliability problems they hold second place in both rankings.
Mercedes dominated the Imola 2020 race while Hamilton finished second behind Verstappen last season, but this year they are aware that Ferrari and Red Bull are much stronger.
The first sprint weekend of the season is scheduled in Imola, in which the teams have only one free practice before the qualifications on Friday, which makes it difficult to find optimal settings.
“This is the first sprint race of the season so unlike last weekend when we had three free practice sessions to tune the car and see how we improve performance we now have only one practice session.”
“That training largely determines what happens in qualifying and in the race, so we’re very limited in what we can learn and what we can do.”
“When we return to the European part of the season [after Miami], the teams will generally bring more performance upgrades and I believe we will see the evolution of our rivals’ cars – we have to make sure we at least keep up.”
Team boss Toto Wolff agrees that Mercedes still lacks the performance of Ferrari and Red Bull.
“We know we don’t have the speed of Ferrari and Red Bull at the moment,” Wolff said.
“But we’re working hard to reduce their advantage and it’s brilliant to see everyone pulling forward together to make it happen.”
“A lot of work was done last weekend at the factory to make improvements for the next race and it shows the team’s determination to turn the situation around.”
“Of course, we have to be realistic, we will need time to progress as much as we want, but we learn as much as we can from each race.”