Lewis Hamilton hopes Mercedes has closed the gap to Red Bull

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull was “a quarter of a second ahead on long-run pace” on Friday, but he hopes the work Mercedes has done will help them close that gap on Sunday.

At the Styrian Grand Prix Qualifying Max Verstappen qualified on pole, a little under 0.2s ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton qualified in P3, but due to Bottas’ three-place grid penalty, he will start the race from P2.

“It was a difficult session for me,” the Briton said.

“I generally have had a really good weekend so far. Of course, not as quick as Max but I did a lot of work before the event and then the car was feeling great all day yesterday.

“We’ve just been chipping away at it and each change is just trying to eke out like 10 milliseconds or something. And then I got into qualifying and the car just didn’t feel as good as it did in P3.

“I don’t fully understand it so I wouldn’t say I was particularly that quick in qualifying but nonetheless I am really happy to be where we are.

“The next two tenths is a little bit difficult. They’ve had straight-line speed again here this weekend which is hard for us to compete with but I am really proud of the team for just continuing to push hard, not leaving any stone unturned.”

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Although Mercedes’ analysis on Friday said Red Bull was “a quarter of a second ahead on long-run pace”, Hamilton believes the gains made on Saturday might help close that gap in the race.

“I didn’t really have an expectation, I just wanted to have a good session. I wanted to deliver a decent lap.

“In P3, I did a lap and I was like, ‘That’s the one that I need for Q3,’ and I got nowhere near it; but these things happen.

“We gave it everything and we’ve got a long race tomorrow so I hope that the balance works for us. It’s going to be a tough battle with these guys.

“I think they’ve generally had the edge throughout the weekend and the analysis last night was that they’re a quarter of a second ahead on long-run pace.

“I hope through work we’ve closed that gap,” concluded the seven-time champion.

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