Hamilton confident Mercedes can ‘close the gap’ on rivals as F1 season resumes – The Guardian

Lewis Hamilton says he is feeling optimistic for the second half of the season as Formula One returns from its summer break at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The British driver has endured a tough season but believes he can still catch the leaders and challenge at the front, describing his Mercedes as finally feeling like a racing car.
Hamilton’s Mercedes has been off the pace for the opening 13 races of the season, struggling for balance and a handful to drive. However, in the final round before the summer break at Hungary the team’s development work appeared to have paid off as they delivered their best finish of the season. Hamilton took second while his teammate, George Russell, claimed pole and third place in the race. It was the pair’s first double podium of the year.
Hamilton is sixth in the championship, 112 points off the leader, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The seven-times champion has won a race in every season in which he has competed in F1 since 2007 – the only driver to have held such a record – and remains buoyant in his belief that he could challenge for victory this year.
“We have been improving this consistency from the recent races and the great progress the team is making,” he said. “Everyone pulling together and continuing to push, the car is more of a racing car which is not particularly what it was at the beginning of the year.
“It is more like a racing car in its characteristics, which is a positive.”
The final half of the season begins at Spa-Francorchamps in what will be a gruelling run of nine races in 12 weeks. The meeting also sees the imposition of the FIA’s ruling to attempt to outlaw the porpoising and violent bouncing that has plagued many cars and especially Mercedes this season.
The FIA is concerned about potential long-term danger to drivers through head injury, and will use an “oscillation metric” to measure the degree of the bouncing; teams will have to remain within its parameters. It has also designated changes to the floors of the cars designed to alleviate the problem. Red Bull and Ferrari have criticised the changes and it is believed they may suffer a performance loss with the stricter tests on floor rigidity.
Russell has said he believes the new technical directive could bring Mercedes closer to their rivals. “Spa is going to be interesting,” he said. “There’s changes to some little regulations which may bring other teams towards us.”
Hamilton believed they were ready to build on the momentum after Hungary. “The last race was the best showing we have had so far and that was a huge boost that we can close that gap,” he said. “It will continue to be tough but we will keep our heads down. The other guys are doing an amazing job but I do believe we can close the gap.”
At the sharp end of the title fight, Verstappen enjoys a huge advantage over his main championship rival, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The Dutchman has an 80-point lead, a gap so great he could finish second in all the remaining races and still win the title. Ferrari have suffered from tactical misjudgments as well as Leclerc making errors on track, to the extent that their challenge with what remains at times the quickest car on track has been ineffectual. If the Scuderia are to mount any form of comeback, it must begin at Spa.


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