Lewis Hamilton said that his relatively lacklustre pace in Free Practice 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix came down to issues with tyres in the unrepresentative conditions.
Hamilton could only manage fourth in the day’s first session, conducted in the early afternoon, just over a second shy of the pacesetting Max Verstappen and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. In the more representative evening session, the Brit failed to improve on his position but moved to within two-tenths of the ultimate pace recorded by Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Looking at the wider picture, the reigning world champion said that the morning was an expected anomaly in an otherwise satisfactory day. The FIA allowed Hamilton to run the number one on his car in FP1, after he submitted a request, before switching back to his chosen 44 for FP2.
“Overall, it’s been a good day; even though the first session was not great,” said Hamilton.
“The track was very green in the beginning, so there was a lot of sliding around and – just like everyone else – we were struggling with the tyres.
“There’s a big difference in track temperature between the two sessions; the conditions in FP2 are much more representative of qualifying and the race, so in that respect FP1 and FP3 don’t really tell you a whole lot.”
After complaining about the car’s balance in FP1, Hamilton and Mercedes found an upturn in speed for FP2. However, the 33-year-old still believes that the team have “a lot of work to do” in order to topple Red Bull through the weekend.
“We made some really good changes over the break and I was much happier with the car in FP2, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” he mused.
“Red Bull looked quick today, they’re usually fast in practice and in the race, so I have no doubts it will be the same this weekend.”