In the past few races, Lewis Hamilton has made light of the fact that Mercedes usually turn up for Friday practice at a grand prix lagging way behind their rivals only to turn it around on Saturday and put the car on pole position. However, after finishing quickest in both free practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, the Briton is feeling upbeat about his chances of claiming a second win in 2013.
“I was very happy with how the sessions went today and it’s the first time I can remember that second practice has really gone well for me,” Hamilton explained. “We haven’t changed anything but the day just went smoothly and all the processes with the team worked well.”
The Korean Grand Prix has come under fire of late due to its remote location (a four hour train journey from the nation’s capital, Seoul) and its lack of atmosphere, being one of the worst-attended grands prix on the calendar. However, Hamilton explained on Friday that he is a fan of the circuit itself as he goes in search of a first win in Korea.
“I love this track: it was clean from the start, it provides good racing on Sunday afternoon and it just gets harder and harder through the lap,” the 2008 world champion said. “You have the first sector which is good for overtaking, then you get more and more corners coming at you and those final two sectors are all about precision. You need a good downforce package, too, and the car is feeling good.
“We can still make improvements overnight, and I have some things I want to do with the set-up, but it’s been a good start for us.”
Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg also showed good pace in practice, finishing P4 and P3 in the two sessions on Friday.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.