Hamilton more comfortable with old clutch setup

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Lewis Hamilton feels more comfortable after reverting back to the old clutch setup on his Mercedes W06 Hybrid car ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

Hamilton has been struggling with race starts since the Spanish Gand Prix back in May when he changed to a new clutch setting, and has won just once in the past four races.

The Briton lost the lead of the race from teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago, citing an issue with his clutch setting for his poor getaway.

Following practice for the British Grand Prix on Friday, Hamilton said that he felt more comfortable after making the switch back to his old clutch setup.

However, he still feels that there is plenty of work to be done as he trailed teammate Nico Rosberg in both practice sessions.

“It’s generally been a good day,” Hamilton said. “Not perfect – and we’ve got some work to do overnight – but the pace is decent. I didn’t have the ideal balance on the long runs and I’ve got a bit of work to do on setup.

“But otherwise it’s all been good. The tires feel strong – it doesn’t take too long to warm them up which is a positive.

“I’ve also gone back on clutch setup which feels really good so far – just like it did in the first few races. So, overall, it’s looking like a positive start.”

Just as he did in Austria, Hamilton said that he felt wary of Ferrari’s practice pace at Silverstone after finishing behind Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in FP2.

“Ferrari look strong again here and they were right there with us today, so it should be a good battle,” the Briton said.

“Hopefully we’ll find a bit more tomorrow otherwise we could find ourselves in trouble.”

He was, however, encouraged by the support shown by his home fans at Silverstone on Friday who made it to the track in spite of traffic congestion.

“I have to say, the fans have been fantastic this weekend already. The level of support is just incredible – and it’s only Friday! Fortunately the weather has been good so far and I hope it continues that way for everyone out there cheering us on.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.