Mercedes have been brought back down to earth in practice for the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton categorically ruling out any victory at Suzuka for the team.
Just one week ago, Mercedes had the fastest car in Singapore but fell short of taking the win – that honour went to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – and on Friday in Suzuka, Hamilton was 16th in FP1 and 14th in FP2.
“It was a pretty bad day to be honest,” Hamilton said to F1TV. “A real struggle, we’re a long way off, two seconds off in the first session and over a second in the second [session].
“Just working away at trying to fix the car, fix the balance. It’s just figuring out what is wrong.
“We were obviously much closer in the last race, but didn’t have any high-speed [corners] and nowhere near the speeds of the corners here.
“Our car has, more often than not, been a little bit weaker in the high-speed corners, looking at places like Silverstone.
“An area where we need to work on is getting the car a little bit more in a sweet spot and not overheating our tyres as much.
“We’ll work on it overnight and try to turn it around [for Saturday]. We definitely won’t be winning this weekend but if I can move a little bit further up the order and so I can at least back up George [Russell], who did not have such a bad lap.”
Russell more hopeful
Despite a downbeat Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate George Russell was in a much more positive mood after he ended FP2 fifth fastest, 0.640s behind Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
“It was a half reasonable day,” Russell told F1TV. “Red Bull are back to their normal ways which I don’t think is a major surprise for many.
“We’re not too far off from P2. I think there are two tenths in it, so it’s going to be a good fight with Ferrari and Lando [Norris], but also cars like Alex [Albon] are also up there in qualifying.”