Lewis Hamilton happy with Mercedes performance in Japan

Lewis Hamilton happy with Mercedes performance in Japan

Lewis Hamilton had plenty to be happy about after a solid performance in the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying although he trailed further behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was satisfied with his seventh-place finish in today’s Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session at Suzuka, which was his highest starting position over the first four races of 2024 F1 season.

Additionally, it’s the first time this season that he has prevailed over his Mercedes teammate George Russell. Russell will start the race from ninth after the team was fined €5,000 by the stewards for an unsafe incident during qualifying; however, the driver wasn’t handed a grid penalty.

The Silver Arrows have endured a miserable start to the 2024 F1 season with W15 cars performing much slower compared to Red Bull, who are currently leading the championship. Generally, it appeared to indicate they would continue to struggle with pace in the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

However, after the session, the seven-time F1 champion appeared happy and seemed to suggest that Mercedes’ main problem might have been addressed at last.

The Brackley team has been unable to pinpoint the specific reason behind its car’s pace deficit compared to other top competitors, but Hamilton hinted that he could have discovered the solution.

“I left it all out there, I was giving it everything,” he said after qualifying. “The team did a really great job this last week, understanding and making adjustments to our set-up.

“It’s actually the first weekend I’ve not gone crazy with set-up and not tested a bunch of things, so a bit more normal.

“I think we got the car into a much nicer working window, so every lap has been more enjoyable to drive. The other guys are just a little bit faster. We were just over a second off the Red Bull last year and seven-tenths [this time] is better.

“With something different we could have been another tenth faster, maybe, but other than that, that was everything. What it’s given us is, I know exactly where the car is not strong enough.

“I can feel it in the car and I know now I’m able to tell them to push in a particular area. I’m hoping the race will be stronger and I’ve really enjoyed driving so far this weekend.”

Asked to confirm his belief that Mercedes have figured out in which direction they need to develop going forward, he added: “I personally believe so, yeah.

“What we’ve noticed is that from track to track it’s been really hard to get the set-up right and it’s been so far out each time.

“At some places it just felt like there was nothing we could do to get the car in a sweet spot, but this weekend is much more of a sweet spot.

“So, I hope that continues in the following races – we’ve just got to add performance.”

Verstappen will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s race by teammate Sergio Perez after Red Bull dominated Suzuka qualifying. Lando Norris will start from third in hopes of a McLaren podium while Spaniards Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso will also be gunning for a top 3 finish.

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