Mercedes thinks it is closer to the top

Mercedes says their gap to Red Bull and McLaren at the Spanish Grand Prix does not show the true picture of their potential

Lewis Hamilton won his first podium of the season in Barcelona, ​​finishing third behind Max Verstappen and Lando Norris.

But while the Dutchman and Briton were only 2.2 seconds apart at the end, Hamilton finished a further 15 seconds behind – suggesting he still has serious room for improvement.

However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the final result is not an indication of what his team can deliver as Hamilton retired in the closing stages.

This was because there was no point in pushing, as he could not challenge the cars in front and was safe behind while his team mate George Russell struggled on the slower hard tyres.

Analysis of his times showed that while there was little difference between Hamilton and Norris in terms of final pace during the first two laps, the Mercedes driver was significantly slower in the final stint on soft tyres.

After Lewis lost three or four tenths of a pace to Norris in the early stages of that gap, that gap widened at times to more than a second per lap as the Mercedes driver neared the end of the race.

Speaking about Mercedes’ performance, Wolff said: “When you look at where we finished, it’s obvious that George on hard was the wrong strategy. Obviously it was down to the team, and we had a slow three-second stop.”

“But if you look at where Lewis was, 15 seconds behind the leaders as he slowed down to the end, well maybe you call it 10 seconds – it’s a lot closer.”

“They didn’t hold back Max and Norris. So, yes, this is a reason to be cautiously optimistic that we are much closer and that we will be able to fight,” he pointed out.

Hamilton’s podium came after Mercedes’ most competitive weekend of the year, as the German manufacturer blocked the second row and finished third and fourth in the race ahead of Ferrari.

However, Wolff has no doubts that Red Bull and McLaren are currently in a class of their own.

“McLaren looked very fast. How fast? I think Max always has a little something in his pocket and you can see that he makes a difference,” he explains.

“Definitely these two at this point, there’s not much between them. They definitely set the benchmark.”

The Austrian also believes that the reality of Mercedes’ gap in relation to the top is that they are only a few tenths behind.

“I think what you saw [in qualifying and the race] is that the difference is probably about three-tenths over these two. That is what is missing,” he claims.

“If we can overcome that, bearing in mind they’ve also put upgrades on the car, then we could race for the win. But it is not yet in hand. Montreal, with the conditions, yes, we could have won. But we probably surprised ourselves that we could, and that’s why we dropped the ball there.”