Russian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton says he’s hoping for a wet qualifying session, after struggling for outright pace on Friday.
Lewis Hamilton finished FP2 in Russia in P4 for Mercedes AMG, having put in a best laptime of 1:33.960. This was more than three quarters of a second behind the best time set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and half a second down on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
While Valtteri Bottas, in P3, was marginally closer to the front than Hamilton managed, the fact all the best times for the top drivers were set on the same Soft tyre compound has concerned Mercedes as they appear to be struggling for outright pace versus their rivals.
As a result, Hamilton said he’s hopeful of Saturday producing the forecasted rain for qualifying: “Our pace was a little bit better in FP2, but still not where we want to be.” Hamilton said. “We’ll work very late tonight to understand what we can do better and make some changes to the car for tomorrow. It’s good to see the competition doing so well, but naturally we want to be in a fight with them, so that’s what we’re working towards. It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow, but I hope it’s going to be raining. I don’t think we’ve ever driven here in the rain, so that would make it pretty interesting.”
“It’s been a day of discovery and exploring.” Hamilton continued. “It started off not too bad and while we’ve been improving, the others made some big progressions and improved much faster than we did.”
While outright laptime seemed elusive for Mercedes, their long run pace versus both Ferrari and Red Bull appeared strong and to bring them fully into the mix. As a result, Technical Director James Allison says he’s hopeful of the rest of the weekend being much smoother: “That was mostly a difficult day but with some bright moments in it that give us hope that we can do a good job tomorrow and on Sunday. We’re quite clearly a little bit out of step with the other teams in terms of our first lap performance on a track where we’ve traditionally found it a bit difficult to get the front tyres to the temperature we need them.”
“But we made some decent learning steps during the day and if we carry on in that direction, then things should look brighter tomorrow. We’re also quite reassured by the fact that on high fuel and when the first lap is taken out of the picture, the car looks swift and looks like it will be a good racing car.”
“There’s definitely a load of work for us still to do, but hopefully we can get that done well and put the frustrations of today behind us and retain the good bits that we saw.”