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Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton hoping Mercedes do not 'mess it up' after positive start

Lewis Hamilton has described his Mercedes as the 'best it has felt this year', so what now for the rest of the Japanese GP weekend?

Hamilton Japan FP1
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To news overview © XPBimages

Lewis Hamilton was buoyant following a heavily disrupted day of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix but also critical of a situation which left fans short-changed.

After emerging from one of Mercedes' worst weekends for many a season in Australia a fortnight ago, the team has at least provided the seven-time F1 champion and team-mate George Russell with what appears to be a more balanced W15 for the weekend at Suzuka.

The British duo finished fifth and fourth quickest respectively at the end of FP1 at Suzuka, half-a-second adrift of Max Verstappen in his Red Bull before the second session was wrecked by rain.

Despite the early gap to Verstappen, Hamilton was delighted. He said: "It was a great session, a really good session for us. That's the best the car has felt this year so far, so I felt really positive, and I was really excited because this is a circuit every driver loves to drive.

"In the past couple of years, we've had really difficult balance, a really difficult car to drive here, and given the difficult last couple of races we've had, great work has been done this past week, and we just seem to have hit the ground [running], with a sweeter spot."

Unfortunately, like many teams, Mercedes was unable to validate its apparent progress in FP2 due to the conditions.

Rain arrived half an hour before the start of FP2, and was then intermittent during the second hour, culminating in six drivers not even bothering to venture out on track, including Verstappen.

Hamilton was one of the few drivers able to post a soft-tyre run very late in the session, finishing second quickest behind Oscar Piastri in his McLaren.

Overall, though, with a change in the tyre rules for this year, and with no guarantee the weather will remain fine for the weekend, it meant the teams opted for little running in FP2.

For this year, the Sporting Advisory Committee decreed that each driver starts a weekend with five sets of intermediates, and two sets of extremes, with no obligation to return any, regardless of the weather forecast. No fresh sets are issued over a weekend.

Last year, each driver started with four sets, and if any were used on a Friday, a fresh set was issued for the weekend.

Considering the possibility of rain this weekend in Japan, the teams clearly preferred to keep as many sets of inters available, resulting in barely any laps being posted.

Assessing the rest of the weekend and whether he was encouraged at least by FP1, Hamilton added: "It's hard to know but we've a better platform, a better baseline to start from, so as long as we don't make too many changes and mess it up, probably just stay where we are, then hopefully....

"It's a shame we didn't get that [second] session but they have changed the tyre rule so therefore no one goes out and runs on the intermediate, which doesn't make sense really, but there you go."

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