Mercedes address sandbagging concerns at British Grand Prix

Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start the British Grand Prix fifth and eighth, respectively.

Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott is not so sure that a victory is possible at the British Grand Prix despite the Silver Arrows’ improvements.

After the first practice session in Silverstone was all but rained off, Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell put 95 laps on the board in the second session on Friday and the third on Saturday morning, with the seven-time champion ending FP2 in second behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Russell and Hamilton ended FP3 fourth and fifth respectively, but it did not seem as though either Red Bull or Ferrari were truly showing their hand yet going into qualifying.

However, Mercedes’ race pace in the dry conditions looked relatively strong and, partly owing to upgrades and the smooth track surface in Towcester, Red Bull boss Christian Horner had predicted that the German side would be in the hunt this weekend.

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Elliot did not outright dismiss this notion, but he was aware on Friday that there was probably a bit of sandbagging going on from the top two teams.

“I hope he’s right, [but] we’re realistic,” he said.

“We had a decent showing in the short-run pace but I’m sure Ferrari and Red Bull have still got more to come.

“The long-run looked pretty encouraging but there wasn’t a huge amount of laps done and it’s difficult to judge from that.

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“If we’ve made a decent step forward in pace, we’ll be happy with that and we can keep chipping away and building from there.

“A win on Sunday would be really nice but that’s probably a little bit far for us.”

All in all, Friday’s running was satisfactory for the eight-time constructors’ champions, who successfully tested out some new parts in FP2.

“So far, so good,” stated Elliott.

“Obviously, we lost the best part of P1 with the weather. Generally, we’re happy with what we have seen; the upgrades have delivered what we wanted.

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“They’re not a miracle that is suddenly going to jump us to the front of the grid but they’re a good step in the right direction.

“What is pleasing for me is that we’ve been able to develop those and bring them without making any of our problems worse, some of the bouncing problems that we had earlier in the season.

“So, hopefully, our understanding there has improved and we can keep chipping away and moving forward from here.”

In a wet qualifying session, the two Britons looked largely in the mix, but Hamilton ended up fifth while Russell’s pace fell away as he ended up in eighth.

The 24-year-old was optimistic of “podium” pace in the W13 ahead of the weekend, but he admitted that starting from eighth on Sunday will not be an “easy task.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took pole ahead of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez behind in fourth.