'The car feels better than in Mexico' - Hamilton hails improved Mercedes performance at Interlagos
The Mexican Grand Prix was a momentous occasion for Lewis Hamilton, one that saw him become only the third driver to claim five world championships. But that didn’t stop the Briton labelling the afternoon as ‘a horrible race’, with his Mercedes struggling to P4 behind race-winner Max Verstappen and the two Ferraris. But after a promising day of Friday practice running in Brazil, Hamilton is hopeful that he can fight for victory this weekend…
While the drivers' title crown has now been wrapped up by Hamilton, his season is by no means over, with Mercedes still fighting for the constructors’ championship – and they know a fifth successive double championship will be celebrated in Brackley if chief rivals Ferrari fail to outscore them by 13 points at Interlagos.
The early signs look promising, after Valtteri Bottas led Hamilton home by just 0.003 seconds in Free Practice 2, while Sebastian Vettel was within a tenth of the Finn’s benchmark, suggesting we may have a closely-fought battle ahead of us on Sunday.
It was a much-needed performance boost for Hamilton, after a tough race last time out, and the Briton will be hoping he has the package to help him claim what will be just his second win in Sao Paulo.
“The car felt better than it did... in Mexico,” said Hamilton. “We still have problems that we are trying to work through and understand. But the pace doesn’t seem too bad so just have to keep working at it.”
When asked whether it would be Red Bull, who topped FP1 thanks to Max Verstappen, or Ferrari who would be Mercedes’ biggest threat this weekend, he added: “Maybe Ferrari.”
Hamilton won a wet and chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix two years ago – his only win to date at this iconic track – and rain is predicted again this weekend, which may well boost his chances of success.
“I love the rain,” he added. "It’s whatever happens. I love driving in the rain but we have to work on making sure we are quick enough in the dry. It’s quite close clearly between us at the front but I think there’s more potential there so we have to try and squeeze it out.”
FP2 pacesetter Bottas was also delighted to see improvements in his Silver Arrow, having finished down in P6 in the morning run-out before topping the timesheet in the day’s later 90-minute session.
“The car seemed much better in the afternoon," said the Finn. "I have to say, the morning was quite difficult. It was easy to make mistakes, I had so many lock-ups and many aborted laps.
“So then it was difficult to build a good rhythm. But second practice, we really improved the car and I think we found a rhythm. Pace seems to be good. But as always here, it’s a short track so the margins are small.”