Lewis Hamilton savours ‘best session of the year’ at Japanese GP as Mercedes star changes his tune

Mercedes had the second fastest time in FP2 and split the Ferrari cars in FP1 at the 2024 Japanese GP

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Lewis Hamilton could not hide his delight with his Mercedes car after enjoying the “best session” of the season so far in FP1 on Friday at the Formula 1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

The 39-year-old has been notorious for calling out the team’s issues and car troubles in recent months, with their initial optimism about the W15 appearing to be misleading based on their pace in the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian grands prix.

But Hamilton appeared to be rejuvenated after finishing fifth in the first free practice session in Suzuka, with the Silver Arrows much closer to the leading Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. He also followed that up with the second-fastest time in FP2, although the rain meant it was not indicative of their pace.

He even went as far as describing it as their best performance in a session this season, although the bar was set pretty low considering how slow the Silver Arrows have been in practice and qualifying in 2024.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during practice ahead of the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes (upper right) during practice ahead of the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“It was a great session, the best session we’ve had this year and the best the car has felt this year so far,” Hamilton said after FP1 to the press in Japan.

“It felt really positive. Exciting. It’s a circuit that every driver loves to drive. In the last couple of years, we’ve had a really difficult car and balance to drive here.

“Given the difficult last few races we’ve had, great work has been done in this past week and we have seemed to hit the ground in a bit more of a sweeter spot. I haven’t made any changes [to the car setup] since.”

Hamilton laments FP2 rain

While the sun shone in FP1, the unpredictable weather took a turn for the worse in time for FP2 as the rain fell, causing teams to err on the side of caution and stay in the garages for the first 30 minutes of the session.

Hamilton was one of the few drivers to get to grips with the slippery track conditions on the intermediate tyre, before setting a hot lap on the soft compound to put him second behind McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. However, only seven drivers posted a time and the likes of Verstappen, Perez and Fernando Alonso did not come out of the garage.

With that in mind, Hamilton is unsure where exactly Mercedes will be when qualifying comes around on Saturday, but the seven-time world champion is not expecting any major surprises from his team.

“It’s hard to know [where they will be]. I think we have a better baseline to start from so as long as we don’t make too many changes and mess it up! I think we’ll probably stay where we are,” Hamilton added.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get that session [FP2]. They have changed the tyre rules so no one runs on the intermediate, which doesn’t make sense really.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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