Shovlin: Mercedes F1 became ‘makers of our own issues’ in Austria

Mercedes became “the makers of our own issues” in Austria after a poor qualifying display ended any real chance of challenging Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen, says Andrew Shovlin.

Verstappen picked up Red Bull’s fifth consecutive victory on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring, extending his lead in the drivers’ championship over Lewis Hamilton to 32 points.

Hamilton lost an “easy second” place finish after picking up damage to the rear end of his car, causing him to slip behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris to fourth place.

While second and fourth place marked a move up the order from qualifying, where Hamilton and Bottas could only finish fourth and fifth, Mercedes trackside engineering director Shovlin said the team was “not pleased with the result”.

“I think we would have been satisfied with a second and a third, which was realistically the best we could have done,” Shovlin said. “We were the makers of our own issues a bit with the poor qualifying yesterday. So that made it very, very difficult to be even thinking of challenging Max.

“I think in reality, his pace was too strong, that even if Lewis had had stint one behind him, I don’t think we’d have troubled them.

“The car has not been working well, but then we had damage on Lewis’ car with some deterioration of some of the aero bits on the rear cake tin, and that cost him a lot of performance, which ultimately was what dropped him from second to fourth.

“Overall, a bit frustrating, both from a performance point of view and the fact that we need to keep the car in one piece.”

Mercedes saw its cars get outqualified by both Red Bull drivers on Saturday, as well as McLaren’s Lando Norris, who also spent the majority of the first stint of the race ahead of both Hamilton and Bottas.

By the time Hamilton overtook Norris for second place on Lap 20, the gap to Verstappen at the front had already grown to over nine seconds.

The struggles in qualifying came in spite of an impressive Friday for Mercedes as it took a 1-2 finish in FP2.

Shovlin explained that the softest compound tyre in Austria – the C5 – had not worked as well on the Mercedes W12 on Saturday as it had on Friday, offering less performance in the warmer conditions.

“We haven’t been particularly strong here in general,” Shovlin said. “That isn’t so much evident in the gap to where Red Bull are, just how much pressure we were under really with McLaren and Lando did a great job, but ended up ahead of us.

“[For] some of those, this track isn’t suiting the car, and we’ve not made any real inroads to that over the two races here. So that feels like a bit of a longer term thing to look at.

“And then also, that very soft compound, the C5, just wasn’t giving us as much in the hot conditions on Saturday as we were getting from it on Friday. And there’s another question there.

“It wasn’t so much that we did anything wrong, but when you look at where the performance order was, we would have to acknowledge that there’s something we’re doing that isn’t right.”

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