Lewis Hamilton feels ‘much better’ in his Mercedes ahead of 2017 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying

PUBLISHED: 17:42 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:46 06 October 2017

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton goes in qualifying for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday after setting the fastest time on a rainy Friday afternoon.

Lewis Hamilton on track at Suzuka in practice for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd] Lewis Hamilton on track at Suzuka in practice for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd]

The 32-year-old Mercedes F1 star from Hertfordshire finished the morning session in Suzuka in P2 behind Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel.

He clocked a lap time of 1m 29.377s but was just edged out by Vettel, who was 0.211 seconds quicker with a 1m 29.166s.

Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Valtteri Bottas was in P5 behind the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.

Three-time world champion Hamilton ended the day in P1 as only five drivers set a time in the wet afternoon session in Japan.

He said: “It’s been an interesting day, the car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia.

“I’m glad that we had the dry session for FP1.

“In FP2, there was a lot of rain, but it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia.

“The car feels back to normal, so I’m ready to race.”

While Bottas stayed in the garage in second practice, Hamilton felt it important to give the spectators something to watch.

He said: “The fans are pretty special here – to be out there in the rain, waiting for us to go out through the whole of FP2.

“That’s also another reason I wanted to go out and at least give them a little bit of a show.

“So hopefully at least they got to see something as not many cars went out.”

Both Mercedes drivers ran the latest aerodynamic update package.

Hamilton and Bottas both used the Soft and SuperSoft compound tyre in first practice. Hamilton then ran the Wet tyre in FP2.

Bottas said: “We didn’t really run in FP2, so it’s a shame for the fans out there who were waiting to see us running.

“In practice one, the car did feel better than it did in Malaysia, but we still need to work on things to make the car quicker.

“As a starting point for the weekend, it definitely feels better than a week ago.

“My run with the Soft tyres was good, but with the SuperSoft, I didn’t really gain any grip.

“So the main thing for me is to understand the SuperSoft performance. The long runs actually weren’t too bad, and hopefully we’ll see better weather tomorrow.”

Looking ahead to qualifying and the grand prix itself, Mercedes technical director James Allison said: “Obviously after losing all of FP2 the rest of the weekend is still going to be something of a scramble, but at least we go into tomorrow knowing how we ought to set the car up for both qualifying and race.”

He added: “The weather forecasts for today were actually pretty unpromising from quite a long way out.

“We weren’t expecting much useful running at all in either of the sessions.

“So it was something of a blessing when we managed to get a largely dry FP1.

“We focused all our programme around trying to get as much race preparation as we could into that single programme.

“Although that may be an unusual session, it was actually quite a good one.

“Both cars getting their laps done, getting a feel for the car on high and low fuel and we were reasonably pleased with the initial balance and performance that the car is showing.”

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