Lewis Hamilton headed into the summer break on a run of five straight podiums, culminating in a season’s best P2 in Hungary. But the seven-time world champion was targeting a return to the top step in the second half of the season, as F1 prepares to go racing again in Belgium.
Mercedes endured a difficult start to the year, fighting for podiums rather than wins as they struggled to get their W13 dialled in. But once the Silver Arrows managed to get on top of their porpoising issues, their radical slimline chassis concept started to show its potential – with Hamilton having been in a genuine fight for the win in Silverstone.
And while he may not have made it to the top step that day, Hamilton certainly believes there is a chance of a victory in the final nine races of the season.
“I do, definitely,” he said. “Of course we’ve been improving, we’ve had this consistency of the recent races and great progress that the team is making, everyone pulling together and continuing to push. The car is becoming more of a racing car, which is not particularly what it was at the start of the year! It’s more like a normal racing car in terms of its characteristics so that’s positive.”
Mercedes managed to close the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari on race pace before Silverstone, but had been struggling more on one-lap speed, with their drivers often handicapped on race day by lower-than-ideal qualifying slots. But George Russell’s maiden pole position in Hungary showed that Mercedes’ qualifying pace has improved, leaving them in a great place to chase that win.
“The last race was the best showing we’ve had so far,” said Hamilton. “That for us was a huge boost, that we can close that gap. It’s naturally going to be tough, we’ll keep our heads down. The other guys are doing an amazing job but I do believe we can close the gap.”
Hamilton has four previous wins in Spa, but he wouldn’t be drawn on whether he can improve on that record this weekend. One thing that could make things even more interesting is a new Technical Directive being implemented from this race onwards that has been designed to limit the porpoising that reared its head at pre-season running.
And with Mercedes one of the worst-affected teams, it remains to be seen if this directive enables them to close the gap to the top two teams as the season gets back under way.