Hamilton loving life after sweeping Friday practice

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton looked like he was having the time of his life on Friday in free practice at Suzuka for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions by quite a large margin, and at one point in FP2 he declared over the team radio "This track is awesome! What a great day!”

His comments to the media after the end of practice were no less ebullient.

"They don't make tracks like this anymore," he said. "Suzuka has to be one of my favourite circuits, if not the favourite one, it's very cool.

"I'm just loving driving more than ever; when you get in the car, it's just the best, it's so fast and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I do.

"I've just been giving thanks all day today because this is what I've always wanted to do.

"Every year I come back, there are always areas that I can improve," he said. "I was like 'There are two or three corners where I know that I need to kill it this year' and I got straight up to it.

"I was much better than I had ever been through those particular corners," he declared. "Now I just have to stay on it, keep working."

Hamilton ended the day almost half a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas, and 0.833s quicker than his chief title rival Sebastian Vettel.

However Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that this advantage was likely not the whole story, and he warned Hamilton and his team against getting complacent.

"I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit," he told Sky Sports F1, suggesting that Ferrarti had turned down their engines a bit on Friday.

"In the morning they were quicker through almost every corner, but they had a softer tyre," he explained. "When we have both the softer tyre, we are gaining a little bit in a straight line.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.

"That makes me really doubt whether they’ve shown the whole performance," he said. "Through the Esses they are a bit quicker and the rest is us, so it’s neck and neck even though the lap time seems to show a larger gap.

"We’ll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow."

Another factor which might complicate matters is the weather. Although overcast on Friday, the conditions for practice remained cool and dry - which might not be the case over the rest of the weekend.

"It looks like we could face quite different conditions in qualifying and race," said race engineer Andrew Shovlin. "We're expecting some rain overnight and the wind looks strong tomorrow which could make things tricky for the drivers in qualifying.

"Then for Sunday we're expecting hot and sunny conditions. We've got good data on the tyres from today but it is never easy to predict exactly how they will behave on a much warmer track.

"The headline times from today do flatter us but we can still find some time working on the balance both on a single lap and a long run," he concluded.

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