Lewis Hamilton says his Mercedes W08 Formula 1 car is feeling “much better” in Japan than it was in Malaysia last weekend as he bids to extend his drivers’ championship lead.
Despite taking pole position and finishing second at Sepang, Hamilton struggled for pace throughout the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, leaving him seeking answers amid concerns Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel could gain the upper hand through the closing races.
Hamilton finished second behind Vettel in FP1 on Friday before leading the FP2 washout and completing just four laps, but was pleased with the running he did complete in the Mercedes car.
“It’s been an interesting day, the car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia. I’m glad that we had the dry session for FP1,” Hamilton said.
“In FP2, there was a lot of rain, but it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia.
“The car feels back to normal, so I’m ready to race.”
Hamilton was one of just five drivers to post a lap time in FP2 as heavy rain prompted the bulk of the field to stay in the pits, but the Briton said he was keen give something back to the passionate Japanese fans who braved the weather.
“The fans are pretty special here, to be out there in the rain, waiting for us to go out through the whole of FP2,” Hamilton said.
“That’s also another reason I wanted to go out and at least give them a little bit of a show.
“So hopefully at least they got to see something as not many cars went out.”
Car No.: 20
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 14th
Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.
For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.
Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.
Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.
Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.
That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.
The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.
Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.
Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.