After finishing fastest in both of Friday’s Free Practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring, Lewis Hamilton says that he feels more comfortable on the soft tyres – the hardest compound that Pirelli had brought to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
Hamilton led his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas in both sessions, as the reigning champions continued their blistering pace from Circuit Paul Ricard last week. The Brit clocked a day’s best time of a 1 minute 04.579 seconds on the soft tyres, improving on his morning benchmark by three-tenths.
The 33-year-old reflected on a “pretty straightforward” day and, whilst he prefers the harder compound, admits that the difference between the three tyres is minimal. Hamilton also praised the work of his Mercedes team, saying that the upgrades brought to Austria have had a notable effect on performance.
“It’s been a good day so far – pretty straightforward with no real issues,” he said.
“There are not many corners here in Austria; it’s a very fast track and it’s very close between all the tyres. The harder tyre seems to be the better for me.
“It’s really great to see the updates; the guys at the factory have been working so hard to bring quality components. The car feels better in certain areas around the track which is already a step forward from last week.”
In both FP1 and FP2, Hamilton found pace in the car immediately – his best run in the afternoon came on his first attempt – and revealed that the car’s performance waned as the afternoon progressed but could not disclose what the issue was. He used the ultra-soft tyres for the race simulation programme, completing 20 laps on them, managing to get within eight-hundredths of his session-best time near the start of his stint.
“The car felt immediately better coming out of the garage in FP1 and also at the start at FP2,” Hamilton added.
“It got a little worse during the afternoon session and we will try to figure out why in the debrief. But the car does feel good overall, so I’m sure we can rectify it. I’m going to keep pushing, trying to maximise a bit more out of it.”