In terms of raw position on the starting grid of this Grand Prix de France, Mercedes F1 did the expected job or almost, with Lewis Hamilton 4th (Sainz having not set a time) and George Russell 6th.
But it is the gap with the leaders that worries the seven-time world champion the most this evening.
“Coming here, we didn’t say we would be three tenths, six tenths or one second behind. Of course, we hoped to be closer!”
“In my mind, if we improved by half a tenth or a tenth, we would have been two tenths, but we’re one second down. I don’t have an answer to that. I’m really happy with the car, and my last qualifying lap was very good.”
“Tomorrow in the race I think it will be like today, we should be a bit closer but these guys are very far away. Ferrari and Red Bull are in a different league from us, but I will give everything I have. can.”
Hamilton reveals he spent a lot of time testing.
“I used a big rear wing this morning just to see if it was better, but it was so slow on the straights that we backtracked.
“I’m always experimenting in the car. Usually George kept the same car all weekend, he hardly changed anything. But I like to experiment, I tried the smaller wing at the start of the weekend and tried the bigger wing, the settings went all over the place but at least I found a decent qualifying setting.”
Russell therefore qualified 6th with more margin in Q3 than in Q1 and Q2.
“Yes, the first two parts of qualifying were tense but we managed to put everything together for Q3. 6th is good because we suffered this weekend. But we are far in terms of performance here and that’s the main disappointment. We were expecting better, clearly, compared to Red Bull and Ferrari.”
“I could have been 4th or 5th without an error on my last lap, it’s not the end of the world. What really saddens me is the gap with the best.”
This is also what Toto Wolff, the team manager, remembers this evening after qualifying. He confirms that Mercedes F1 took the opportunity to also resume its experiments given the gap with the top teams.
“I think we knew that once we got the new tires and drove the car a bit more on the limit, we would be there as a third force, as we have been all season. We weren’t worried about it but it’s just not good enough.”
“When you’re a bit off and your expectations are at a certain level for the race weekend, and it doesn’t materialize, a kind of freestyle planning takes place.”
“For us it was mainly about experimenting with rear wing levels and also with tire temperatures, but in the end the whole thing just isn’t fast enough and we can all see that.”