Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff admits the team is “a bit in the dark” over why Lewis Hamilton struggled for pace during practice for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton could only post the sixth-fastest time in second practice at the Red Bull Ring on Friday as he ended up over six-tenths behind pacesetter Max Verstappen and Mercedes teammate and current championship leader Valtteri Bottas.

The six-times world champion had multiple attempts to improve his time but failed to string together a competitive lap despite strapping on a new set of Soft tyres.

Speaking to Austrian broadcaster ORF, Wolff revealed there was a problem with Hamilton’s car which caused it to be “all over the place” throughout FP2.

"We discussed it for a long time, but in the end we went into the session a bit half pregnant," Wolff said. "Not using the full power, but also not cruising very slowly.

"It wasn't full attack, but it wasn't half attack either - we already added a little bit more. Let's say, we drove on a performance level that we normally don't drive on Friday.

"We are a bit in the dark, especially with Lewis' time,” he added. “There's a problem with the car.

"At the moment we don't know. The car is just all over the place in the slow and medium fast corners.

"But we have data channels for everything, and you have to take your time to look at that.”

Asked how much performance Mercedes has left to extract in time for qualifying on Saturday in order to turn things around, Wolff replied: “Not so much anymore.

“Compared to last week, Verstappen has improved, and especially the Racing Points have really improved.

"Everyone else is slower, just like us. But there is a lot of thinking and data to collect to see where the performance is.”

After his difficult day, Hamilton said he will do a “dry dance” with heavy rain forecast for Saturday, conditions which could lead to a qualifying wash-out.

If final practice and qualifying cannot take place as scheduled on Saturday, or on Sunday morning, then the grid for Sunday’s race will be determined by the results of FP2 - meaning Hamilton would be locked into a sixth-place start.

 

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