Hamilton expecting ‘dogfight’ for clear air in qualifying at Portimao
Lewis Hamilton wasn’t thrilled with the balance of his Mercedes in Friday practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix, but was more concerned with what he said could be a potentially chaotic qualifying session at Portimao on Saturday.
The championship leader, who finished an underwhelming eighth in FP2 but was second earlier on in FP1, has already had his brush with traffic in qualifying this season as he was nearly eliminated in Q2 at Sochi, and he’s expecting another dramatic Saturday session in Portugal as the drivers wrestle to get their tyres in the working window and keep enough space in front for a flying lap of this new-to-F1 track.
Asked if it would be easy to create space in qualifying and position himself for a clean lap, he replied: “No, it’s not easy to get a [space], because it’s really difficult to get the tyres in the window for the first lap here – even with the softs – as it’s the hardest range of tyres. On a circuit like this, it’s to be expected I would say.
“I think in Q1 there will be a lot of cars out there and it’ll be definitely a dogfight to get position to get a clear lap but that’s what we do, everybody’s in the same boat,” he said.
Hamilton also explained why his Friday didn’t go as planned, which he put down partly to the challenges of the Portimao track but also to a truncated FP2 session that was stopped twice after a fire on Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri and a crash between Racing Point's Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
“[It's] an incredibly difficult circuit, massively challenging – the undulations are incredible and there’s a lot of places that you just can’t see where you’re going: at the exit of Turn 8, you’re looking at the sky for a period of time and you have no idea what’s beyond the hill,” he explained.
“Very challenging, and the surface is very smooth, and you see a lot of people making mistakes and sliding and spinning, so it’s not been an easy day… and obviously they were quite slow on the recoveries today so we ended up sitting in the garage for much longer and didn’t really get a great run plan in the second session,” he added.
“I need to take three steps back, figure out where I went wrong with the set-up and see if we can improve for tomorrow,” concluded the Briton.
While Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas topped both practice sessions, Hamilton will be looking to turn the tables on Saturday, as he aims for a ninth pole of the season.