Lewis Hamilton admitted that it had been a challenging time at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve after Friday's two free practice sessions for this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix.
Hamilton ended the day quickest in FP2 with a time of 1:19.837s, but this was still almost two seconds slower than his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas had managed in the morning.
And the new aerodynamic rules introduced over the winter meant that it was three seconds off the pace that Hamilton himself set last year when he claimed pole position for the race.
"I think everyone was struggling, sliding around out there," he told the media after the end of the one-hour session. "It’s definitely been a real challenge today.”
Hamilton said that a lack of grip was the major problem, just as it had been in 2020 when the race was held just weeks after the track was resurfaced.
“It’s pretty much the same,” he commented. “I think it’s a little bit grippier but it’s very windy ... It’s difficult to say whether it’s the car or the wind or the track."
Hamilton suggested that part of the problem lay with the tyre selection available to the teams this weekend. The C1, C2 and C3 compounds offered by Pirelli are the hardest compounds, and Hamilton felt it was a mistake not to have a softer option.
"We came here last year and the tyre was too hard," he pointed out. "And we’ve come here again this year with the same tyre – or actually, they’re even harder this year.
"It feels like we’ve come with too hard a compound in my opinion, I think it should have been mid-range," he said. "But everyone’s on the same one so we’ll get through it somehow.”
Today was the first time so far this season that Hamilton has been fastest in a Friday session, but Red Bull's Max Verstappen was only 0.143s off his time and remains a real threat heading into Saturday's qualifying.
“I think it’ll be a close run,” Hamilton admitted. “We look like we were close. I don’t know how Max’s lap was, mine wasn’t perfect. We’ve definitely got some time to come from the car and some improvements to make.
“I’m sure they have too, but it’s close as it has been the last couple of races," he concluded. "So it’s exciting.”