F1 2013 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton ‘competitive’ in Suzuka
PUBLISHED: 10:50 11 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:31 13 October 2013
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton was satisfied with his first practice pace ahead of the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix but admits Mercedes still have work to do before qualifying in Suzuka.
Japanese Grand Prix facts
* Race distance: 53 laps (191.054 miles/307.471km)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/06:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 3.608 miles/5.807km
* 2012 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB8) 53 laps in 1hr 28m56.242s (207.430km/h)
* 2012 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB8) 1m30.839s (230.135km/h)
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m31.540s (228.372km/h)
The 28-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire was fastest in first practice around the figure-of-eight circuit in Japan this morning (Friday) with a lap of 1m 34.157s.
However, Hamilton was then only sixth on the timesheets in second practice with a 1m34.442s as Red Bull showed their hand and F1 world championship leader Sebastian Vettel set the pace.
Looking ahead to qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton said: “I’m happy with where our car is after the first practice sessions today although, of course, we would love to be more competitive.
“We’ve got some work to do this evening on the tyre management in particular.
“It’s too early to think about what we can achieve but I’m looking forward to a competitive qualifying tomorrow and then we will have to see what we can do in the race.”
The 2008 F1 world champion added: “This track is so beautiful to drive, it’s fast and flowing, and our car really does feel good here.
“But it’s also a very unforgiving and challenging circuit; you’re always on the limit so the trick is to balance and control that limit.”
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg was second and third fastest in Friday’s two sessions, clocking times of 1m 34.487s and 1m 34.114s respectively.
"I’m happy with where our car is after the first practice sessions today although, of course, we would love to be more competitive."
Rosberg said: “The track here at Suzuka is such great fun to drive and our car was feeling fantastic around it today.
“We were quite fast over one lap and on the long runs but the important thing is how we manage the tyres as that will be the key to success here.”
And echoing Hamilton’s comments, he added: “There’s a lot of work ahead of us but I’m really looking forward to the rest of the weekend and I hope we can annoy the Red Bulls a little bit.”
Explaining why Mercedes were off the pace slightly in FP2, team principal Ross Brawn said: “We had a slightly messy session this afternoon which didn’t quite run as smoothly as we might have hoped.
F1 2013 World Drivers’ Championship
1 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 272 points
2 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 195
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 167
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 161
5 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 130
6 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 122
“Both drivers suffered flat spots with the tyres, which forced us to adapt our programme, but they were still able to complete enough running to get a good feel for each compound and how it’s working at this circuit.
“The tyres will be very sensitive to brake locking in race conditions, which will be a major consideration for everybody, and we wanted to put as many miles as possible on them today in order to find out what the performance and durability limits of both compounds are.”
Brawn said: “Our pace looked competitive this morning, a little less so this afternoon, but as always on Friday the varied fuel loads up and down the pit lane complicate things somewhat.
“We will do our analysis tonight [Friday] to see where we can improve and hopefully take another step forward tomorrow.”
Rosberg and Hamilton ran for a total of 110 laps today, 55 each, more than two complete race distances.
Both drivers worked on optimising car balance and short and long-run comparisons between the two tyre compounds.
Team director Toto Wolff added: “Our priority today was to learn as much as possible about the hard and medium compound tyres and we completed more than two race distances in order to do so.
“As we have seen before this season, we looked strong in first practice before the competitive order apparently shifted again in the second practice session, but we will see exactly where we stand in qualifying tomorrow.
“We will be working hard this evening in order to understand what more we can do in order to improve both the speed and consistency of the car ahead of tomorrow. It was a solid start to the race weekend.”
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