It was a poor session by Lewis Hamilton’s standards. In 191 Grand Prix starts, the Three-time World Champion has qualified 3rd or higher on 127 occasions. Rarely has he been in a lower position other than occasions that include attrition or grid penalties. He concedes that getting the tyres into a good operating window didn’t help his chances, but there is still hope for a result in the race.
After the session, Hamilton said,
“Tomorrow is still all to play for. I’m still up there in the mix. It was all the last sector, I was losing half a second [there].
So there’s some work to do. That’s where all the mistakes happen. It was a real struggle, getting tyre temperature and really maximising [and] utilising the tyres.”
– Lewis Hamilton
Both Mercedes cars were clearly struggling in the final sector, especially at the final corner, but Bottas was able to get away with it and put in a very impressive lap that saw him get within a tenth of both Ferraris ahead.Hamilton was half-a-second back, and admits that the long runs in free practice don’t give him massive confidence for the race, but his fight will be unyielding.
Normally I’m a lot quicker than I am today, so I need to and work out why and see what I can do. Of course, my goal is to try and get forwards, and my long run yesterday was pretty poor as well, so I’m hoping to rise back.
It’s only a one-stop, so it’s a very simple strategy, so I’m not particularly confident on that but I’m going to work as hard as I can to do it on track.”
– Lewis Hamilton
The preempted one-stop does suggest little wiggle-room for strategy. If last year’s Russian Grand Prix is anything to go by, the chaotic nature of the bottlenecking at the opening corner might have a greater part to play than pitting at the right time tomorrow.