Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he's still aiming to secure pole position for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, despite knowing he will then take a ten place grid drop before the start of Sunday's race.
Hamilton topped both of Friday's free practice sessions and broke the track record in the process, quickest in both race and qualifying trim. Meanwhile his main title rival Max Verstappen was left struggling with understeer and significantly off the pace.
"We have just started off with a really good setup," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 after the end of Friday's track running. ""The first session was really strong.
"The track is evolving and it's feeling different when you get into the second session," he continued. "We made some changes, which were okay. I'm not sure it felt as good as it did in the first session in the second session.
"We've got lots of good findings, so we'll hopefully take those forward with us," he added. "I think I'll be able to find a little bit over tonight and hopefully into tomorrow, if it's not raining.
"Then I'll have a lot of work to do on Sunday. Either way, whatever the case, I'm just going to try and focus on how I can get the best out of it.
“[Ferrari] are going to be hard to pass,” he said after Charles Leclerc ended up second quickest in FP2. “As are Renault and McLaren. They seem to be improving more and more through the year.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from, whether they’re bringing upgrades. I don’t know, it’s not really my focus. But it’s good to see them getting stronger and I hope that they’re strong next year.”
As for overcoming the ten place grid penalty, Hamilton said there was only one way for him to proceed: "I need to be on pole to limit the loss," he stated emphatically.
"Then of course you need to understand the car to be able to do the best in terms of the long run," he mused. "It's just trying to find the right balance. It's not really different, I would say, to any other weekend."
The change in track conditions from last year's super-slippery state also appeared to be playing more to Mercedes' strengths than to Red Bull.
"Last year was a brand new surface. I think the oil came up from the bitumen, or whatever it is, and they cleaned it off," he recalled. "I didn't really know what to expect when we went out there today.
"But geez, so much more grip than we've ever had before. It's intense, how much grip there is out there, which is awesome," he said. "It made it much, much more enjoyable track to drive, much more like it was before."
That was confirmed by his team mate Valtteri Bottas who was third fastest on Friday afternoon behind Hamilton and Leclerc.
“It was a lot faster, I think it was over ten seconds faster than last year in FP1,” the Finn said. “Now there’s proper grip and I think it is one of the grippiest tracks we have in the calendar. That obviously makes the track more fun.
“We could take a different approach with the car set-up compared to last year because of that," he added. "We had to react and adjust quite a bit during the day, so I enjoyed it.
"The feeling was actually pretty good, no big issues with the car, so I feel this could be a strong weekend for us.”