Lewis Hamilton praised his Mercedes team and the speed of his updated car Friday after dominating both practice sessions for the Austrian Grand Prix with record-breaking times.
The three-time world champion, who is 14 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in the title race, topped both sessions with aplomb.
He was nearly two-tenths clear of Vettel in the afternoon on a day of near-perfect preparations at the Red Bull Ring circuit.
“It’s been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far,” said three-time world champion Hamilton. “We had to swap out a spark plug during FP2, but the guys did a great job to turn the car around — and we still managed to complete our programme.
“Most importantly, the car feels fantastically fast here. There’s already a nice balance and it feels good out on track.
“This car is so quick in comparison to what we raced here last year. It’s tricky, but a proper thrill to hook up a lap.
“The team is in good spirits and we’re all up for another exciting fight with the Ferraris this weekend.”
His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third-fastest in both sessions after spins on the picturesque track in the Styrian Alps.
“It was great to see that the upgrades the team worked so hard to deliver for this weekend have worked straight out of the box,” he said.
“Aerodynamically, we’ve made another step forward from Baku, which is encouraging. This track punishes you if you make a mistake.
“I tested those limits, but that’s something I can learn from and build upon for the rest of the weekend. The balance of the car feels good and we’ll fine tune the set-up tonight for qualifying.”
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel’s collision with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was deliberate but he will face no further sanction, Formula One’s governing body the FIA ruled on Monday.
Germany’s Vettel had driven his Ferrari into the back of Hamilton’s Mercedes on lap 19 of the tempestuous race in Baku last month bumping the Briton on the wheel at high speed.
The FIA held a meeting with Vettel and his Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene at its headquarters in Paris on Monday.
As the four-time world champion admitted full responsibility for the incident and offered a full apology the FIA decided no further sanction would be necessary.
“Top level sport is an intense environment in which tempers can flare,” FIA president Jean Todt said.
“However, it is the role of top sportsmen to deal with the pressure calmly.”
Vettel incurred a 10-second penalty and three points on his licence, increasing his total to nine.
He will have to stay out of trouble in Austria or face a possible one-race ban for reaching 12 penalty points inside a 12-month period.
“Sebastian Vettel extended his sincere apologies to the FIA and the wider motor sport family,” the FIA statement continued.
“He additionally committed to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events, including in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, at an FIA Formula 4 Championship to be defined and at the FIA stewards’ seminar.”
The chaotic race at Baku was won by Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull as Vettel finished fourth and Hamilton fifth after the Englishman was forced to make an extra pit-stop from a commanding leading position to repair a loose headrest.
Championship leader Vettel, who turned 30 on Monday, will now start this week’s Austrian Grand Prix with his 14-point margin over title rival Hamilton intact.
In the world championship standings Vettel leads Hamilton by 14 points with 12 races still remaining.
Provided by AFP
Lewis Hamilton’s unexpected early exit from qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix was due to a set-up problem, according to the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
The former three-time world champion said the team failed to find the right solution to his problems, following a bad decision on set-up made on Thursday.
“We just couldn’t get it right on Lewis’s car and, therefore, he had a disastrous qualifying,” said Austrian Lauda.
“(Valtteri) Bottas’s car was better, very close to the second place so, with him, we’re happy, but with Lewis, not at all.
“We have to analyse it, check carefully what the difference is between the two cars and why the whole set-up worked on one car and not on the other….”
Hamilton is set to start Sunday’s classic 78-lap race from 13th on the grid after qualifying 14th and moving up one place thanks to fellow Briton Jenson Button’s 15-place grid penalty for an engine units change with his McLaren car.
Kimi Raikkonen claimed pole for the first time in nine years as Ferrari swept the front row with Sebastian Vettel in second ahead of Bottas of Mercedes.
Hamilton struggled throughout qualifying. He was off the pace in Q1 and then faced more problems in Q2 when he failed to make the top-ten shootout.
He also had performance problems and complained that there was something wrong with his car.
He had to use his lightning reflexes and intuition to save big ‘moments’ during the session at Massenet and at Casino Square on different laps in Q2 before abandoning his final flying lap after Stoffel Vandoorne crashed in his McLaren.
“That last lap may have just got me into the top 10, but then I probably would have struggled to be in the top five, with the pace that I had, with whatever issue I was having in the car,” said Hamilton.
“But it’s great to see Valtteri was able to extract the performance of the car. It shows we’re not terrible here.
“We’ll just have to figure out why I couldn’t be up there with him.”
He said he was baffled by his loss of speed after topping the times in Thursday’s opening practice before the team made set-up changes.
“I don’t know, I’ve not spoken to the guys so I can’t really pinpoint it at the moment,” he told reporters. “But it’s an odd feeling, that’s for sure….”
Provided by AFP