Hamilton taking positives out of Friday practice

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is feeling positive ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix after a productive Friday at the Sepang International Circuit.

Despite finishing over one second off first-placed Kimi Raikkonen in Free Practice 2, Hamilton was pleased with his development work as he focused on long runs.

“We made some positive steps with the set-up over the two sessions today. I had a good long run in the dry which has given us a lot of information to look at tonight.

“We focused mainly on longer runs today so I haven’t done a quick lap yet on either set of tires; that will come tomorrow. I’m happy with the direction that we’re going and let’s see what the weekend brings.”

Hamilton finished in P5 in Australia, but he struggled in the dry conditions, and the 2008 world champion told Press Association Sport that he would not be in the running for the championship this season.

“At the moment, in terms of pure performance, we don’t have the speed to compete for the world title.

“I’m certainly thinking we could get one win, maybe more than one, but the other guys are going to make it as hard as they can that’s for sure.”

Fellow Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg is predicting that tire management will be crucial in Malaysia due to the aggressive wear many of the teams are experiencing, and he conceded that he had plenty of work to do.

“As we saw in Melbourne, tire management will be the key to success, so that’s our focus for the practice sessions,” said Rosberg.

“The conditions were tough out there and the heat is unbelievable. Generally we learnt a lot today but we still have some homework to do tonight and tomorrow.”

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.