Lewis Hamilton admits he’s not sure that Mercedes has an answer to the early pace being shown by Ferrari at the Russian GP.
Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull in FP2 but was second to Charles Leclerc in the opening session, who in turn claimed P2 on Friday afternoon. Mercedes was over 0.6s off the pace, and Hamilton says the deficit to the Scuderia – the team that has won the last three races – is even more pronounced in a straight line.
“It’s been a day of discovery and exploring,” Hamilton said. “It started off not too bad, and then it didn’t really improve as the others made some big progressions. We’re losing eight-tenths of a second to the Ferraris on the straights. Nonetheless, we have been improving, but they are improving at a serious rate. So we’re just trying to figure out how we can improve the car, but it’s not an easy task.”
Hamilton is unsure whether Mercedes has the ability to find enough performance this weekend to fight with Red Bull and Ferrari, but believes his car does have more pace to unlock.
“That is the million dollar question, I don’t know,” he said. “Naturally, I believe in my guys. I don’t think we’re getting the maximum maximum out of our car. That’s been the key issue we have had for the last three races. We’re still trying to discover it. It’s not easy out there. It’s good to see the competition doing well. But we want to be in there fighting.”
With the weather forecast suggesting rain could impact both qualifying and the race, Hamilton admitted he would prefer wet conditions to give Mercedes a better chance of victory.
“It’s going to be tough day tomorrow, but I hope it’s going to be raining,” he said. “I heard it’s going to be raining! I think it would be quite nice here, I think it would it would be a much more exciting race if it was wet! I don’t think we’ve ever driven here in the rain, as far as I’m aware.
“As a track, it’s not that easy to overtake as all the corners are so fast. I can’t say it’s the best-designed track to be honest, just because you carry so much speed through the apexes of these corners that you can’t follow. But you do have these long straights to try and make up for it, and we have DRS. But in the rain, it would make it easier to follow as you often choose different lines.”