Lewis Hamilton has reaffirmed his hopes of fighting for a first victory of the season at this weekend’s French Grand Prix, with Mercedes teasing an extensive car upgrade as they bid to close the gap to the front.
While Hamilton and Mercedes have endured a poor first half of the season by their title-winning standards, much-improved pace in recent races has re-energised the team, and Le Castellet’s Paul Ricard Circuit – smooth, fast and flowing like Silverstone – is expected to play to their strengths.
Such is Mercedes’ upturn in form, Hamilton has reversed his opinion on not being able to fight for a win this season – and he believes he has a chance this weekend, when all sessions will be live on Sky Sports F1.
Asked if he will be in the hunt, Hamilton said: “I hope so, that’s what we’re all working towards.”
“I’m working towards getting that win and I do believe at some stage we will be able to compete with these guys, whether that’s this weekend or in five races time,” he added. “The journey is the important part.
“We started off not where we wanted to be, we’ve made progress and we’ve started to hit a patch of consistency. When we do get back to where we deserve to be, I think we’ll appreciate it that much more.”
A win would be a milestone one for Hamilton, not just for ending his longest wait into an F1 season to claim a victory – but also because it would come in his 300th race as he becomes the sixth driver to reach that tally.
His team-mate George Russell, however, played down Mercedes’ chances against Red Bull and Ferrari this weekend.
“The honest answer is we don’t really know,” Russell told Sky Sports F1. “We think we’ll be closer than we probably were in Austria, relatively speaking. It could be reasonable.
“I think we’re not going to be quicker than Ferrari or Red Bull. I think if we have an exceptional weekend, we could be within two tenths if we get absolutely everything right, but I’ll be shocked if we get any closer than that.”
First evidence of Mercedes’ new upgrade revealed
Slowly but surely, Mercedes have been understanding their underperforming W13 car – and recently the team have been bringing upgrades in a bid to boost performance. That is continuing in France, where on Thursday the first images of the team’s latest aerodynamic update emerged.
Mercedes have brought a re-designed nose to Paul Ricard, which appears to be flatter and could be focused at reducing drag, with the team known to be chasing a straight-line speed boost.
The full package will be revealed before Friday practice, and Mercedes may even have more upgrades up their sleeve.
“Our understanding of the W13 is growing with every lap and it’s encouraging to see that reflected in our development and results,” said Toto Wolff coming into the weekend.
“While we were quicker in Austria, we still weren’t quick enough to challenge at the front. We need to keep chasing those final few tenths and bringing new developments to the cars, including this weekend in France.”
Hamilton, who is sitting out first practice with reserve driver Nyck De Vries stepping in, added: “Every weekend we’re helping to improve, for sure.
“I really don’t know what to extent this weekend. We have things we’re constantly changing on the car, aero surfaces and things like that, I’m hoping we discover something this weekend and that hopes us creep further forward.
“In general this has been a decent race for us, and I hope that continues this weekend.”
Sky Sports F1’s live French GP schedule
Friday, July 22
10.35am: F2 Practice
12.30pm: French GP Practice One (session starts 1pm)
3.45pm: French GP Practice Two (session starts 4pm)
5.25pm: F2 Qualifying
6.10pm: W Series Qualifying
7pm: The F1 Show
Saturday, July 23
11.45am: French GP Practice Three (session starts 12pm)
1.30pm: W Series Race
2.35pm: French GP Qualifying Build-up
3pm: French Grand Prix Qualifying
4.55pm: F2 Sprint Race
6pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday, July 24
8.30am: F2 Feature Race
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: French GP Build-up
2pm: The French Grand Prix
4pm: Chequered Flag: French GP Reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
5.30pm: French GP Highlights