Hamilton wary of Ferrari’s Austria pace, believes Mercedes’ advantage has grown slimmer

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Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari has made a big step towards Mercedes ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, but says that the team is taking the threat very seriously and is working to stay on top.

Hamilton finished second behind teammate Nico Rosberg in the first free practice session on Friday, but failed to hook up a lap in FP2 and eventually faded to fourth place by the end of play.

The British driver is chasing his first win in Austria this weekend, and believes that Mercedes is making good progress with the car setup and developments.

“It’s been an okay start,” Hamilton said. “Not the best but not the worst either. I had a bit of oversteer here and there but generally the car feels great and we definitely made improvements from P1 to P2.

“There’s just not a lot of grip out there on track and I didn’t put a full lap together. I had some good sectors and was a few tenths up on a couple of laps, so the pace is there. I was pushing hard and learning with every lap. If you’re not making mistakes you’re not trying hard enough.”

The second practice session was topped by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and Hamilton believes that Italian team does have the pace to challenge Mercedes in Austria.

“I’m not sure how our pace looks relative to the others,” Hamilton said. “I haven’t seen the data but Ferrari looked quick and it’s definitely closer here than at other circuits.

“We’re always aware of the threat from our rivals and we take it seriously every race. Hopefully it’ll all come together tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.