Hamilton out of ideas after finishing fifth

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Lewis Hamilton has admitted that although he is disappointed to only have finished fifth in today’s Singapore Grand Prix, he is unsure what more he or Mercedes could have done to make it onto the podium.

Having started P5, Hamilton made a poor start and was eventually caught out by a safety car period which forced him into fighting back through the field in order to salvage ten points from the weekend. In his eyes, most of the damage was done in qualifying.

“The car felt good tonight but unfortunately we paid the price for not qualifying further ahead yesterday,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t have the best start and had to go wide to avoid Mark at turn one. From there, it was difficult to follow the race and my position.”

Hamilton conceded that the safety car’s appearance did hamper his chances of making the podium, but he does not believe that he could have made the ‘correct’ strategy – pitting during the stoppage – work like podium finishers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Instead, he was forced to pit later on and then recover the positions on track.

“Whilst the timing of the safety car definitely didn’t help us, we need to go back through our strategy and see what we could possibly have done differently in that situation. I’m not sure we could have done what Fernando and Kimi did by staying out on that set of tires for so long, though.”

Making no secret of his disappointment, Hamilton was insistent that the team would bounce back in the final six races.

“Of course, it’s a little disappointing to come away with only fifth place but I gave it my all out there and we’ll come back stronger. Our aim is to get back ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship and see if we can get another win before the end of the season.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.