Lewis Hamilton ended fastest in second practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix on Friday, but the Briton is expecting another tight battle between the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Red Bull Racing this weekend.
The reigning World Champion, victorious in Portugal last October when Formula 1 made its debut at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, finished only fifth fastest in the morning session but was able to top the afternoon’s running, even though the circuit was slower after the track heated up.
Hamilton finished just ahead of main championship rival Max Verstappen in the afternoon, and he expects the Dutchman and his Red Bull team to take the fight to Mercedes this weekend in Portugal.
“It’s a little grippier here this year but it was very windy today so I think everybody was struggling with balance and sliding around,” said Hamilton. “Not a massive amount of track evolution between the sessions – as it got hotter, the track got slower.
“This morning seemed to be a little bit better, then this afternoon it got warmer and windier so it seemed to make it harder for people to find time and work on their balance.
“I think it’ll be a close one this weekend. I don’t know what Max’s lap was like in FP2 but mine wasn’t perfect so we definitely have some time to come from the car and improvements to make. But I’m sure Red Bull have too.
“It was close, as it has been the last couple of races, so I’m sure it’ll be an exciting qualifying and race in store.”
“Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas, looking to put the disappointment of his Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend behind him, ended the morning session with the quickest time, but he was only third in the afternoon with a lap time more than half a second slower than his morning time.
Bottas reckons Mercedes’ pace is ‘there or thereabouts’ this weekend, and it will be important for both himself and the team to get things right when it matters during Saturday’s Qualifying session that he hopes will give him pole position.
“In terms of pace, it was not a bad start – I think we are there or thereabouts,” said Bottas. “It’s going to be close, no doubt.
“Quite similar feelings to last year here, it’s a slippery tarmac and the rear of the car is pretty loose in places, so it’s not easy to get clean laps. For me, the softer we went with the compounds, the more tricky the car became, and the Medium tyre looks to be working best.
“The track has improved from last year, slightly more grip and definitely a step in the right direction. Tomorrow it is going to be important to get the heat in the tyres in the right way – it’s going to make a big difference.
“It will be close between us and Red Bull and could swing either way. Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole.”