Mercedes remain off the pace after five races this season and, despite improvements in Miami, Toto Wolff accepts the team are still in “no man’s land”. Mercedes brought a raft of aero upgrades, namely to their front wing and it looked to make a huge difference with George Russell showing good pace in Friday’s practice sessions.
The portpoising which had been so evident for the state of the season was nearly non-existent as well, leading to some suggestions they could spring a surprise challenge at the front. But Saturday brought the team back down to earth with Russell unable to get the same joy out of his car in qualifying, failing to get out of Q2.
Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his best qualifying for a few races, starting the race in P6 and showed the Mercedes had good pace to overtake Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso in the early laps after a slow start. P5 appeared to be Hamilton’s for the taking, until a Safety Car period brought Russell back into play.
The young Brit eventually made his move on his team-mate with Mercedes securing fifth and sixth. But that is still far away from Mercedes are used to fighting on the grid with Wolff admitting the team are stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment.
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“George stayed out a long time and we were betting on a Safety Car and that materialised from nowhere and it went against Lewis who lost a position,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “At the end of the day there is no happy or not happy moment at the moment just because we’re a bit down.
“We’re third quickest on the road and we’re in no man’s land. We had a good Friday. We need to dissect why that was and then come back.”
He added: “This is where we are. We’re not as quick in qualifying and we are behind the Red Bulls and Ferrari.”
There was a good tussle between the two Mercedes drivers on the track after the Safety Car as well. Russell had the advantage on much fresher tyres, but Hamilton wasn’t willing to give up his position easily.
And the 24-year-old was happy the two drivers were able to show enough respect to one another on the track.
“When you are battling with your teammate you have to show a bit of respect, more room than normal and I went a bit wide but it is so dirty offline round this circuit and I had to do it all over again,” he said. “I enjoyed it and there is good respect between us but Lewis was unlucky today on those old, hard tyres there is a lot of work to do.”