Mercedes engineering chief Andrew Shovlin has admitted that the team have made an encouraging start to the Miami Grand Prix weekend.
The Brackley-based outfit arrived in the United States with various upgrades, as they continue their push to return to the front of the Formula 1 pecking order.
And during Free Practice 1 at the Miami International Autodrome, George Russell lapped within 0.1 seconds of World Championship leader and pace-setter Charles Leclerc.
Shovlin: Mercedes’ car is working well
When asked if Mercedes have made significant progress with those upgrades, Shovlin told Sky Sports F1: “We’re not going to say that, [but] it’s been an encouraging start to the weekend.
“We were always trying to get weight out for the car – we were still overweight – and it looks like it seems to be working reasonably well.
“In Imola, we were struggling with [tyre] warm-up and the big thing here is overheating. Whether that’s shifted us in the right direction, I don’t know.
“We won’t get excited about where we are here, as we know that we should have improved the car. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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Mercedes porpoising seems to have improved
The Miami International Autodrome promised to throw up at least one surprise as F1 travelled to a new track with freshly-laid tarmac.
But few predicted that the nature of the circuit would appear to significantly reduce porpoising, which should play in Mercedes’ favour.
“There’s a little bit of that of [porpoising], but there is less,” continued Shovlin.
“When we’ve gone from track to track, you get different amounts, and we don’t yet fully understand why. For instance, Jeddah seemed worse than Bahrain. We’re still building up a picture of that.
“It does seem to be working quite well here and it’s not the issue it was in Imola. But then in Imola, [with] just that one session to set the car up, [it] really worked against us, because this is not an easy car to position with set-up at the moment.”
Are Mercedes’ new upgrades behind their practice form?
Mercedes have arrived with new-look front and rear wings for the Miami GP, designed to go hand-in-hand with the high-speed circuit at the Hard Rock Stadium.
“Fundamentally, there is just more downforce for the same drag, and the rear wing is a more efficient wing than the one we’ve been running,” said Shovlin.
“You’ve seen at low drag tracks, we’ve trimmed our wing away, [and] this one is designed for this downforce.
“Both of those together are useful and, as I said, those are items that when we remake them, we make them lighter, so it’s helping us get more weight out of the car.”
Can Mercedes keep their pace up all weekend?
After an impressive FP1 session, the challenge for Mercedes now is to prove that they can keep pace with Red Bull and Ferrari throughout the entire weekend.
“We’re not going to say that just yet,” added Shovlin.
“I mean, obviously, getting into Q3 really is a minimum expectation for this team, but we know that we have a long road to climb and a long road to go along, and we’re just trying to do that step by step.”
Lewis Hamilton ended first practice in eighth position, with his Soft-tyre run being compromised.