Lewis Hamilton “felt much more confident” in his Mercedes with seventh on the grid for 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton endured a difficult Friday Practice as he finished outside of the top ten in both sessions which left him citing a “lack of confidence” in his car’s performance, yet he was able to rebound and qualify seventh on the grid after having finished in the same position in FP3.
Speaking post-Qualifying about his progress from FP2 to FP3 into Qualifying, Hamilton praised Mercedes for delivering “great work overnight” to extract more performance with “good” changes which enabled him to be more competitive.
The seven-time champion also spoke of the contrast in driveability as he added: “The car has generally felt nice to drive today. That was a relief as yesterday was a bad day.
“I felt much more confident with the car in FP3, and I was giving it everything in Qualifying.”
Hamilton however finished one second behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen and pointed to the first sector as their Achilles heel, as he continued: “The first sector was the major difference though. We had a seven tenths deficit through it and it’s mostly to do with the lack of rear-end grip we have.
“I was happy with my laps, even the runs on the used tyre. A track like this is one of the most challenging to drive anywhere in the world. It’s amazing, even when the car is a little bit difficult. My final lap was enjoyable, but the cars ahead were just too quick compared to us.”
Hamilton’s teammate, George Russell echoed his sentiments as the 2018 F2 champion admitted that their Mercedes “car isn’t the strongest across the full range of corners,” which has further heightened their struggles and specifically in the first sector.
Russell also added that he expects himself and Hamilton to have a “challenging” race, despite having altenate tyre strategies available that McLaren and Ferrari won’t have at their disposal.