‘It’s not spectacular’ – Mercedes say they’re ‘further off the pace than we hoped’ after Friday in France

There was a lot of hype surrounding Mercedes in the lead-up to the French Grand Prix, with many believing the Circuit Paul Ricard track features, plus an upgrade to their W13, made them dark horses this weekend. But both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton seemed a bit dejected towards the end of Friday’s French race, with FP2 finishing more than seven-tenths off the leading pace.

With the Mercedes W13 featuring an improved floor and tweaks around the nose, Russell finished FP1 in P4 – while Hamilton sat out to let Nyck de Vries try – while Russell then led Hamilton in a Mercedes four-five in FP2.

FP2: Sainz leads Ferrari teammate Leclerc by 0.1s in second French GP practice session

But with Russell 0.764 seconds adrift of session leader Carlos Sainz, and Hamilton more than two tenths further back, the Briton seemed at least buoyed by the team’s long-term pace.

“There’s still a lot to do,” Russell said. “I think our high fuel pace was probably better than our low fuel pace, so we need to make sure we optimize tomorrow to make sure there are no cars in midfield between us and the front four and then see how we get on .” for Sunday. But I think the Ferrari probably struggled a bit more than us, Max [Verstappen] looked very fast as usual, so work to do.”

George Russell: Mercedes updates are working, but ‘our rivals are also finding time’

However, when asked if he felt the upgrade had helped Mercedes get closer to Red Bull and Ferrari, Russell added: “I need to look at the data exactly. We think so, but everyone keeps improving their car, keeps bringing updates and the whole grid just moves forward, so while we find time, our rivals also find time, so sometimes it’s not that easy to see it on the lap chart.”

Meanwhile, when asked if Mercedes looked like an “outside shot” for the win this weekend, Russell replied: “Outside shot is probably a way of putting it. We’re probably a little further off the pace today than we had been.” “Hopefully. Work to do tonight back in the factories, but never say never.”

READ MORE: Verstappen says Friday’s French GP practice sessions were ‘very difficult’ as Perez reveals problem that cost him in FP2

Meanwhile, across the garage, Hamilton – despite coming into his 300th Grand Prix weekend – admitted losing track time in FP1 had held him back a bit, as he gave his assessment of Mercedes’ pace .

“It wasn’t the best sessions, of course because we missed the first one,” said Hamilton. “I tried to get up to speed as quickly as possible; it’s very hot so there’s a lot of slow laps to try and get the temperatures on the tires but I think I got through it… I think I did a good job – it was average I’d say.

ON BOARD: Nyck De Vries drives Hamilton’s Mercedes in French GP FP1

“We have a lot of work to do,” he added, “a lot of ground to cover. Our car here isn’t spectacular and we don’t know why, but I’m sure, hopefully overnight – we’ll make usually a small step, so hopefully tomorrow will be the case.”

READ MORE: Hamilton calls his career peak ahead of the start of the 300th Grand Prix – as Alonso pays tribute to ‘legend’

Mercedes will be looking for their first win of the year this weekend, with Hamilton on a string of three consecutive podiums as he becomes only the sixth driver in F1 history to make 300 starts.

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