It was back to business as usual on Friday at Portimao with Mercedes leading the timesheet in both practice sessions. Still, it was a day of minor problems for the world champions. They suffered from the wind like everyone else, according to Andrew Shovlin, but that wasn’t the only thing.

“Valtteri seemed quite comfortable with the car, he was on the pace from the start and able to generate good grip from the tyres which allowed him to get into some useful setup investigations. Lewis struggled more with the rear end and whilst he topped the timesheets, we’ve got some work to do to improve the balance for him tomorrow”, said Shovlin, the chief engineer at Mercedes.

Hamilton was a little short of time in the second free practice session, especially on the long runs, but Shovlin has a logical explanation for that. “We’d found some damage on both cars at the end of the day that will have been costing some performance and will certainly explain some of Lewis’s issues on the long run but even with that corrected, we could do with finding a bit more pace.”

So for now, Mercedes is slightly the favourite in Portugal, especially as both drivers are competing at the head of the field, something that was not the case at Red Bull Racing. However, at Mercedes, they are also taking into account competition from a different quarter. ” The single lap looks really close with Red Bull but Ferrari were also consistently around our pace”, said Shovlin.

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