May 6th, 2013 (F1plus/J. Leslie).- Lewis Hamilton has said that the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix will be a "good benchmark" for the Mercedes team to access their progress.
The Brackley based squad topped the time sheets during winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya and Hamilton is interested to see how far they have come.
The Brit currently lies third in the drivers standings after two fifth and two third place finishes respectively. The podium positions came in Malaysia and China, he started on pole in the latter but the Mercedes team admit that they are working on their race pace.
Hamilton admits that the break between Bahrain and Barcelona has been long but he is looking forward to returning to Spain to kick off the European leg of the 2013 season.
Talking in a team press release he said "It feels like a long time since Bahrain so we're all looking forward to getting to Barcelona next weekend and starting to get into the routine of the European season. The short break has been good however, and I've had a chance to catch up with family and friends, and also spend some time at the factory with the guys, working on our efforts to improve."
His strong start to the season has been a "boost" for the team according to Hamilton, adding "We've been boosted by the results that we've had at the start of the season and to come away from the first four races with two third and two fifth places feels like a real achievement."
He controversially moved from McLaren to Mercedes and after six seasons racing for the former, it has proved hard to settle in and get comfortable in the "Silver Arrows" outfit. However now he is feeling comfortable in the car and his new surroundings. "I'm feeling very comfortable in the car now and we know the areas that we need to improve so a lot of effort is being put in to chose that gap to the front-runners."
Ross Brawn said in the same statement that the team are currently working hard to finalise their Barcelona upgrade package and to investigate the reason for their Bahrain drop off in pace, particularly with pole sitter Nico Rosberg. "We have focused our efforts in two key areas; finalising our upgrade package for Spain and understanding our comparative lack of race pace in Bahrain. We have made progress in the latter area and will evaluate some developments over the upcoming race weekends to help improve the situation.
Brawn, the Team Principal of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, added "We're not there yet but we are making progress and of course, performing in the race is what really counts."
Executive Director Toto Wolff also added that the team are investigating the causes of their poor tyre management. "In Barcelona, we will test some solutions aimed at improving our tyre management in addition to our planned upgrade package." Nico Rosberg had to pit four times at the fourth round of the season in Bahrain, two more than fourth place finisher Paul Di Resta, due to increased tyre wear.
Moving back to Hamilton, he thinks that their strong pace in testing will set them up well for the race weekend and proves that the car works well on the Circuit de Catalunya and that it will be a good test for them. "Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there."
He added that the weekend will help show how far forward they have jumped. "The weekend should be a good benchmark of the progress we have made since then."
Nico Rosberg is similarly upbeat and is looking forward to returning to Spain and the Circuit de Catalunya as they know that the car works there well. "I'm looking forward to travelling to Spain next weekend. We know that the car went very well at the Circuit de Catalunya in pre-season testing so I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend.
However the running order is still relatively unknown, "We will have to wait and see how our pace compares however." He has also been busy at the factory, clocking the hours in the simulator and preparing for the upcoming race weekends. "I've been in the factory for a couple of days this week, on the simulator and meeting with the team, and everyone has been working hard to make progress on our race day performance.
Rosberg also admits that the upcoming race weekend in Barcelona could give us all a hint of how the season will play out. "It will be an interesting weekend and once we see how everyone performs in Barcelona, it should give a good idea of how the rest of the season will look."
Toto Wolff also outlined some of their targets for the next few races. "Out target is to improve our Sunday afternoon performance to match what we have delivered on Saturday in the past two races. It will certainly be interesting to see what gains everybody has made since the last time we were at the circuit and how the planned upgrade packages work from car to car."
The team has significant upgrades coming for Barcelona but with the other teams doing the same thing, it will certainly be interesting to see who finds the most time and comes out on top.