Hamilton optimistic for weekend despite 'difficult day'

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It was far from a vintage performance from Lewis Hamilton on Friday, after he finished off the pace in the first two free practice sessions of this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was fifth fastest in FP1, over a second off the time set by Red Bull's Max Verstappen. While the deficit stayed around the same in FP2, he slipped to tenth place as other drivers got faster. Last year Hamilton dominated all three practice sessions in Baku.

Hamilton admitted that the day hadn't gone to plan, but insisted he was confident that it was still all to play for over the weekend.

"It was a difficult day out there," he said. "This circuit is a tough one and we had a few challenges that we tried to work through today."

"We've clearly still got lots of work to do ahead of qualifying."

"There is obviously pace in the car, which is encouraging," he insisted. "Now it's just a case of getting our heads together tonight to work out exactly how to extract that pace across the entire weekend."

Hamilton found cause for optimism in the progress of his team mate. After struggling in the first session, Valtteri Bottas was second fastest in the afternoon.

"Practice one was quite tricky," admitted the Finn. "We were struggling with the setup of the car and it wasn't so well balanced.

"We needed multiple laps in a row to generate the temperatures we want for a good balance.

"FP1 wasn't a happy session, but we made some changes ahead of FP2 and the car definitely felt more comfortable.

"We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we'll make another step this evening. We'll work hard and if we can find those gains we'll be right up there fighting for pole position."

Scrappy day partly to blame

Part of the reason for Mercedes' struggles was the stop-go nature of both sessions which saw multiple lock-ups, run-offs, spins and contacts with the barriers requiring local yellows, virtual safety cars and red flag stoppages.

"It was a scrappy day punctuated every few seconds by dozens and dozens of off-track frolics," acknowledged Mercedes technical director James Allison

"The associated yellow flags interrupted the rhythm at a circuit where it is quite challenging to get temperature into the tyres, especially the fronts.

"That as much as anything dictated your position on the leader board today.

"However, we have work to do overnight to make the car's handling sweeter. Both drivers were struggling to get temperature into the front tyres and, as a consequence, suffering with front locking."

Gallery: All the pictures from Friday in Baku

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