Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari’s advantage looks to be close to a second in the first sector at the Belgian Grand Prix but expects Mercedes to be a threat in the race.
Ferrari secured a one-two finish in both of Friday’s practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps, where the Scuderia’s straight-line speed advantage played an even bigger role. With the first sector primary full throttle from Turn 1 all the way to the braking zone at Les Combes, Hamilton says Ferrari is making major gains in that sector but after his own difficult day he still sees reasons for optimism for Mercedes.
“Not a great start for us in FP1,” Hamilton said. “We had a problem with the throttle and basically lost power, and so I was idling with the RPM trying to get back. I managed to fix it a little bit just with a couple of switch changes and got it back — and then we went back out and had another problem, so it was a little bit of a mess.
“We got some laps toward the end but it wasn’t spectacular. Then we made some changes — big changes — because the setup was quite far off into FP2, and it was feeling a lot better but we still have work to do. I don’t know about the gaps but the Ferraris look quite quick. They’re nearly a second quicker than us just in a straight line down to Turn 5, so that’s quite impressive.
“Nevertheless we’ll keep chipping away at it. We’re clearly up in the mix, which is a good thing.”
While Charles Leclerc was 0.9s clear of Hamilton in the second session, the championship leader says the race pace is more encouraging for Mercedes.
“That (gap) sounds terrible! But it’s practice. We definitely don’t have even half of that to catch, so I’m not sure where the time is lost. But I’m hopeful. All that time is on the straights generally. There’s not a lot we can do to generally catch that up. They’ve been quick all year long on the straights, so I kind of had a feeling this weekend would work really well for them.
“We just kind of have to somehow apply the pressure another way, if we don’t have it on pure pace. I think the long run was very strong. I’m about to find out now, but I was told (Sebastian) Vettel’s times. He was in the high-50s I think — 51, mid-51s, and I was in the low-to-mid 50s on the long runs. So it will be interesting to know what fuel and tire life that we had. If we’re quick in the race, that could be good.”