Ferrari sporting director, Laurent Mekies, has predicted a solid performances from Mercedes during Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have looked strong so far this weekend, much more so than at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend.
The nature of the downforce orientated Zandvoort Circuit, as well as the warmer temperatures this weekend, have lent themselves much better to the Silver Arrows than the cold conditions at the power track at Spa.
Both Britons troubled Red Bull and Ferrari throughout practice, and things were tight in qualifying too.
Hamilton and Russell were persistently getting in amongst the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as well as the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, and were occasionally able to trouble Max Verstappen for P1 as well.
The Dutchman had some fierce competition for pole from Leclerc, Sainz and Hamilton, with the Monegasque going fastest in the opening run in Q3.
Verstappen was second, fractionally clear of the seven-time champion, who was denied a second run due to Perez’s spin at the end – he was on a lap that might have been enough for pole.
As it was, the reigning champion pipped Leclerc, with Sainz beating Hamilton to P3, and the top three were covered by less than a tenth of a second.
Having watched both cars get so close to starting right at the front for Sunday’s race, Mekies could not help but be a little disappointed.
“We can be reasonably happy with how qualifying went, but there’s also an element of regret,” he said.
“We’re pleased to be back fighting for pole position down to the nearest thousandths of a second with both our cars, but obviously, when you come that close to pole you would like to have actually taken it.
“To see Charles and Carlos come within a whisker of Verstappen, just two and nine hundredths slower respectively, is a good indicator of how intense the fight was.
“Well done to Max for his home pole.
“One of the positive aspects of the weekend so far is that we have been able to help the drivers get more and more confident with the car with each passing session.
“This is down to the team at the track, including Charles and Carlos, and all those supporting us back in Maranello.”
With the eight-time constructors’ champions proving a perennial threat this weekend, the Frenchman predicts an entertaining afternoon of racing in the Netherlands.
“I expect tomorrow’s race will be a very close battle between three teams, as even Mercedes could be in the mix and so it should be a great show for all the fans in the grandstands and those watching at home on TV,” added Mekies.
“We know that, so far, Verstappen has had a very strong race pace and tomorrow we will try and put him under pressure to make life difficult for him.”
Verstappen took victory from pole at the Dutch Grand Prix last year, in Zandvoort’s first race in 36 years.