Lewis Hamilton has refuted suggestions Mercedes have turned a corner, the Briton saying they are still stuck going around it “very slowly”.
Mercedes, yet to win a grand prix this season, showed signs of progress at Silverstone and again at the Red Bull Ring, so much so they went to France dreaming of a win.
Their dismal pace was, as Toto Wolff put it, a “slap in the face”.
Hamilton qualified ninth-tenths down on Charles Leclerc and although he finished the grand prix P2, leading home George Russell in Mercedes’ first double podium of the championship, he was never in contention for the win.
The Briton also concedes that Mercedes were helped in their result by the retirement of Leclerc while Carlos Sainz’s grid penalty meant both Ferrari were effectively out of the fight.
As such he says Mercedes still have a long way to go before they round the corner.
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“No we can’t can’t say that we’ve turned a corner,” he told Sky F1. “We’ve been on the corner for ages and we’ve been progressing around it very slowly.
“Silverstone was great fight and we’ve had really good consistency.
“I think in the last race we looked like we took a step back from the others, or they took a step forward again.
“So every single lap had a deficit of almost a second. But our race pace is a little bit better than our qualifying pace, and our reliability is exceptional.
“So that’s been very, very positive.”
He added: “We’ve also relied a lot on the others not finishing so I think that overshadows the fact that we still have a lot of work to do.”
All five of Hamilton’s podiums have come in races where either a Red Bull or a Ferrari have retired, or as was the case of Max Verstappen in Silverstone, suffered car damage.
But with Mercedes beginning to understand their W13 better than they did in the early part of the season, Hamilton says he is enjoying the racing a lot more.
‘I’m enjoying it more than just because I’m getting more in a much better place with the balance of the car in a much better place with where we put the set-up,” he said.
“Bono and the rest of the guys are definitely happy working with the car and start to see some progress in terms of set-up and those sorts of things.”
The seven-time World Champion is P6 in the Drivers’ Championship with 127 points.