Former Formula 1 driver Mika Hakkinen says Mercedes had a “strange weekend” in Miami, but it turned into a respectable points haul for the Silver Arrows.
Mercedes turned up in Miami with upgrades to the car that were aimed at limiting their “porpoising” struggles and capitalising on the long straights and slow corners at the track.
That certainly seemed to work as George Russell topped the timing screens on Friday after finishing second in FP1, but the 24-year-old ended FP3 down in 17th before being eliminated from Q2, leaving yet more confoundment for the team as to how to keep the car in an operating window.
By contrast, Sir Lewis Hamilton qualified in sixth after out-qualifying Russell for the third time this year, and he recovered from a difficult start to pass Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard had tagged him on the opening lap.
Russell had started the race on the Hards, and went long in search of a Safety Car that might aid his cause, and a collision between Gasly and Lando Norris gave him the perfect opportunity to pit onto Mediums.
He used these to pass Hamilton, who had been asked if he wanted to pit onto any of his four used sets of tyres but ultimately stayed out, to finish fifth after they both passed Valtteri Bottas.
The seven-time champion was a little bemused after the race as to why he had been asked to make the call on whether he stopped or not but, in any case, Hakkinen praises a much-improved overall display after the German team’s nightmare in Imola.
“Mercedes had a strange weekend, ultimately ending with quite a positive result,” he wrote in his Unibet blog.
“They looked really quick on Friday – George was fastest in second practice and Lewis was 4th – but as the track conditions evolved into Saturday their speed fell away.
“George did a very good job to look after his tyres and run long in the race, holding out for a safety car period, and that worked really well for him.
“I know Lewis was not happy with the strategy his team gave him, but the safety car was outside their control and the team should really be quite satisfied to have both cars in the top six in spite of their problems.”
Hamilton disagrees with the notion that the Mercedes car has improved as the circuit in Miami seemed to work to their advantage, and he wants to start making gains on Ferrari and Red Bull at the front.
“We’re finishing, reliability is good. We just have to keep trying to… it would be exciting at some stage to take a step forwards which we haven’t yet,” he said after the race.
Mercedes are now 62 points behind Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, but beating McLaren and Alfa Romeo comfortably last weekend will have been a big shot in the arm for the champions.