'Best session of the year so far for us', reports Hamilton


Lewis Hamilton was feeling much happier heading into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, reporting Friday's first practice as being the best session of the year so far for the Mercedes team.

"FP1 was a great session for us," he told the media after the end of the day's running, which saw only limited track time in the afternoon because of rain showers hitting Suzuka International Racing Course.

Hamilton ended first practice with a best time of 1:30.543s putting him fifth on the timesheets just behind his team mate George Russell, albeit almost half a second off the top time set by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"It was the best session for us so far this year and the best the car has felt," Hamilton continued. "In the last two years here, we've struggled with a car that has had an inconsistent balance and has been difficult to drive.

"I felt very positive and excited heading into FP2 as this is a circuit that every driver loves to drive," he added. ""It was a shame not to get much running in, therefore."

It's certainly a relief for Mercedes after a terrible time in Australia. Even before their double retirement (Hamilton from a power unit failure, Russell in a last lap accident) they had been struggling to get the W15 to perform.

"The team has done a lot of great work since Australia, and we seemed to hit the ground running today," Hamilton said. "The car was definitely in a sweeter spot.

"We've got a better baseline to start from this weekend and hopefully we can build on that," he added.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 05.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Practice Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Russell was also feeling encouraged and upbeat after Friday. "We performed better than we expected to in FP1," he confirmed. "That was a pleasant surprise, and the car was feeling really nice to drive.

"Both Lewis and I were happy with the overall balance," he continued. "Our focus today was trying several test items and experiments to make the car more consistent in variable conditions.

"Time will tell whether these have had the intended impact," he added, pointing out that conditions in Suzuka were much cooler than usual for F1 due to the Grand Prix being held much earlier in the season.

"The W15 has been performing better when the conditions are cooler, so that is a note of caution," he explained. "It was frustrating that we couldn't evaluate these further in the afternoon [because of the rain].

"It's such a shame for those here and watching at home that we couldn't do much running in FP2. I hope we can find a solution for these moments and conditions. It's not the first time it has happened, and it won't be the last.

"Looking at tomorrow, qualifying will be interesting as it's a clear single lap tyre. Most drivers may only have three or four sets of the Soft compound so you have to ensure you nail each and every lap.

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