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‘Wacky’ setup direction may have backfired on Mercedes

A “wacky” car setup approach may have backfired on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix, according to the Formula One team’s head of trackside operations, Andrew Shovlin.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton finished second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at Austria’s Red Bull Ring as Mercedes suffered a fourth successive defeat for the first time since 2013.

Hamilton is now 18 points behind his Dutch rival after eight races and the next race, the Austrian Grand Prix, is at the same track this weekend.

Shovlin said Mercedes were “pretty realistic” that theirs was not the quickest car but second and third as well as the fastest lap was not a bad result.

“We just need to find a bit on the car for the next race here,” he added.

“It is a difficult and quite a peculiar circuit and Red Bull are normally strong here. But we were also exploring a fairly wacky direction with the setup as a radical approach, which I think was maybe a bit better on the single lap.

“The question that remains is whether we’ve hurt our (tyre) degradation and we need to look at that in the next day or two.”

Pirelli are bringing a softer range of tyres to next Sunday’s race, which could make a two-stop strategy more attractive.

Shovlin said Hamilton had done a lot of work in the simulator before the Styrian GP as Mercedes, who have ruled out upgrades as they prepare for major rule changes in 2022, sought to unlock more pace.

The Briton started on the front row alongside Verstappen but fell progressively further behind as the Dutch driver lapped all but the three cars immediately behind him.

“An important part of this year for us is adapting well to every track and we do need to be a bit brave and original with setup direction to do that,” said Shovlin.

“We just need to make the car a bit quicker and a bit easier on the rear tyres…so we will focus on those areas and it’ll just be a case of seeing if we can come back a bit stronger in a few days’ time.”

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