Lewis Hamilton failed to finish in the top 10 in both of Friday's practice sessions at the Spanish GP; Mercedes are trialling major upgrades at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya; watch Practice Three live on Sky Sports F1 at 11.30am on Saturday ahead of Qualifying at 3pm
Saturday 3 June 2023 11:04, UK
Lewis Hamilton says he could "struggle" to make the top 10 in Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying after Mercedes struggled in Friday practice despite major upgrades to their W14 car.
Mercedes debuted a new floor, front suspension and sidepods in Monaco last weekend, but the unique nature of that circuit meant the team could learn little from their running.
Following the further addition of a new diffuser, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was expected to provide the first proper insight into the impact of the new package.
Hamilton failed to finish in the top 10 in both of Friday's sessions as Red Bull's Max Verstappen continued to dominate, while his team-mate George Russell's highest placing was eighth in Practice Two.
"[The car feels] OK, we're fighting as hard as we can," Hamilton said. "I would say it was a difficult day one. Just getting on top of the tyres and the degradation, and the car feels like the car.
"It's so different from last week of course, we're just focusing…I think the long run pace didn't look terrible and we've just got to work on trying to figure out how we can extract more on a single lap.
"From the pace that I had today it's a struggle for me currently to get into the top 10 (in qualifying). Hopefully we'll do some changes overnight."
While it wasn't necessarily a surprise to see Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and both Ferraris in front of Mercedes, the fact that Alpine appeared to also have greater pace will be of great concern to the Silver Arrows.
"I think it's very, very close between us and that middle after P5 back to P10," Hamilton added. "It's really, really close between us all.
"It's impressive to see how the improvements that everyone seems to have made all around us, the Alpines are doing great, the Aston Martin is second and right behind the Red Bull which is really, really impressive.
"It's not going to be easy that's for sure."
Mercedes had originally planned to bring their upgrades to the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola two weekends ago, but flooding in northern Italy saw the race called off and left them faced with the awkward proposition of debuting the new parts in Monaco.
The fact that the three races were back to back somewhat forced their hand, ultimately creating a longer wait to see if the abandonment of the 'zero-sidepod' philosophy the team had previously pursued would make a major difference.
While there had been warnings from team principal Toto Wolff that the updates weren't going to be a "silver bullet", the nature of Friday's display was undoubtedly underwhelming.
Despite the potential for frustration, Russell expressed hope that the benefits of the upgrades are most likely to show themselves in Sunday's race.
"It was only Friday, I think we learned a huge amount and we'll dig into the data tonight," Russell said.
"We know that we're not Friday specialists and we often take a bit of a step forward on Saturday and Sunday, so it's the right way round for it to be.
"We are where we are. A lot of people are bringing upgrades to the car, we weren't expecting to suddenly set the world on fire, and we just need to learn what we can from the info we've got, and to try to move forward tomorrow."
"I think qualifying is going to be tight. There's a few cars who are definitely fast on a Saturday - Alpine are looking really strong, so between us, Ferrari and Alpine - it's probably going to be tight.
"I don't expect us to be having an incredible day tomorrow, but I certainly expect us to be having a better Sunday than Saturday, so that's what we're gearing up for."
Saturday June 3
9.25am: F3 Sprint
11.15am: Spanish GP Practice Three (session starts 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.15pm: Spanish GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Spanish GP Qualifying
6.15pm: IndyCar - Detroit GP Qualifying
Sunday June 4
8.50am: F3 Feature Race
10.20am: F2 Feature Race
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Spanish GP build-up
2pm: THE SPANISH GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag Spanish GP reaction
5.45pm: Indy NXT - Detroit GP
8pm: IndyCar - Detroit GP
Will Red Bull's winning run in F1 2023 continue at the Spanish GP? Watch all the action live on Sky Sports F1, with Qualifying at 3pm on Saturday and the race at 2pm on Sunday. Get Sky Sports