Lewis Hamilton says he is optimistic for the second half of the season as Formula 1 returns from its summer break at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
The British driver has endured a difficult season but believes he can still catch up with the leaders and challenge up front, describing his Mercedes as finally feeling like a racing car.
Hamilton’s Mercedes has been off the pace in the first 13 races of the season, struggling for balance and a handful to drive. However, in the last lap before the summer break in Hungary the team’s development work seems to have paid off as they achieved their best result of the season. Hamilton took second place while his teammate, George Russell, took pole and third place in the race. It was the duo’s first double podium of the year.
Hamilton is sixth in the championship, 112 points behind leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull. The seven-time champion has won a race in every season he has competed in F1 since 2007 – the only driver to hold such a record – and remains confident he could challenge for victory this year.
“We have improved this consistency since the last races and the great progress the team has made,” he said. “Everyone pulling themselves together and continuing to push, the car is more of a race car which isn’t particularly what it was at the start of the year.
“It’s more race car-like in its characteristics, which is a positive.”
The final half of the season begins at Spa-Francorchamps in what will be a grueling series of nine races in 12 weeks. The meeting also sees the imposition of the FIA’s decision to try to ban porpoising and violent bouncing which has plagued by many cars and especially Mercedes this season.
The FIA is concerned about the potential long-term danger to drivers due to head injury and will use a ‘wobble measurement’ to measure the degree of bouncing; teams will have to stay within its parameters. They have also designated modifications to the car floorboards designed to reduce the problem. Red Bull and Ferrari have criticized the changes and it is believed they could suffer a loss in performance with the stricter floor stiffness tests.
Russell said he believed the new technical directive could bring Mercedes closer to their rivals. “Spa is going to be interesting,” he said. “There are changes in some small regulations that can bring other teams towards us.”
Hamilton believed they were ready to build on their momentum after Hungary. “Last race was the best performance we’ve had so far and it was a huge boost for us to close that gap,” he said. “It will continue to be difficult, but we will keep our heads down. The other guys are doing an amazing job, but I think we can close the gap.
At the height of the title fight, Verstappen enjoyed a huge advantage over his main championship rival, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The Dutchman has an 80-point lead, a gap so big he could finish second in all remaining races and still win the title. Ferrari suffered from tactical misjudgments as well as errors from Leclerc on track, as their challenge with what remains at times the fastest car on track was ineffective. If the Scuderia are to ride any form back, he must start at Spa.
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