Fourth row of the grid for Lewis and George at Suzuka
- Lewis Hamilton and George Russell qualified seventh and eighth respectively for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
- Overnight changes helped improve the balance of the car with both drivers reporting a better feeling with the W14 during FP3.
- Both cars used two sets of the Soft compound in Q1; Lewis and George setting identical times to progress.
- In an extremely tight Q2, just seven tenths covered the 15 runners at the flag. Both drivers improved on their final runs to make it into Q3.
- Despite their best efforts, Lewis and George could only manage the fourth row of the grid; the pace of the W14 consistently behind the three fastest teams this weekend.
- Nevertheless, Sunday’s race is expected to see high tyre degradation which could provide plenty of strategic variance and opportunities.
We did some great work overnight and the changes we made felt good in FP3. The car has generally felt nice to drive today. That was a relief as yesterday was a bad day. We typically have at least one suboptimal day each weekend, so Friday was likely that.
I felt much more confident with the car in FP3, and I was giving it everything in Qualifying. The first sector was the major difference though. We had a seven tenths deficit through it and it’s mostly to do with the lack of rear-end grip we have. I was happy with my laps, even the runs on the used tyre. A track like this is one of the most challenging to drive anywhere in the world. It’s amazing, even when the car is a little bit difficult. My final lap was enjoyable, but the cars ahead were just too quick compared to us. Let’s hope for a better race tomorrow.
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Today was a fair representation of how we perform on circuit that have similar characteristics to Suzuka. There’s a large range of corners where we have plenty of high-speed and some very low speed turns too. Our car isn’t the strongest across the full range of corners, so we have been struggling a little more here, particularly in sector one. We saw last week in Singapore that if we can find the sweet spot of the car on tracks requiring high downforce then we can fight at the front. That is not the case here.
Tomorrow’s race I expect to be challenging. Our race pace will likely be similar to our single lap pace. The gaps may close up a little but not substantially. We do have the option to try some different strategy options, having two hard tyres in our allocation. McLaren and Ferrari may not have the same freedom. However, I only expect it to only be a small advantage.
We made several changes overnight, designed to improve the performance of the car through the first sector. That was where we were particularly weak yesterday. We did find some gains but ultimately, our performance today can mainly be attributed to the corner speed range we see here at Suzuka. Over the course of the year, we’ve done a good job of adding performance in the lower speed corners. However here, and in particular that first sector, you need a lot of downforce in a certain ride height range. The W14 isn’t the strongest car in that area and that helps explain our deficit today.
Our nearest competitors in the championship are Ferrari. We will have an eye on them strategically tomorrow as they line up ahead of us, and hopefully we can be in a race with them. We came here thinking that tyre degradation would be high. That looked to be the case on Friday and even earlier today in FP3. Our second set of Hard tyres means that we can look at strategies and stints that they possible cannot. Hopefully we can exploit that. We will ultimately find out in that first stint how the degradation is looking and its impact on the race.
Source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team