Lewis Hamilton experienced a difficult Friday in Baku, finishing FP2 in a humble 10th place after he struggled to get a clear lap in on the new tires.
However, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas demonstrated the pace of the W08 with a more representative second place, behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, leaving Hamilton upbeat about prospects for the rest of the weekend.
“We don’t sandbag, there’s zero benefit to sandbagging,” said Hamilton. “And I can assure you that’s not the case. Right now we’re fighting, the car is sometimes good, sometimes not good. Right now we’re trying to figure out how we can make the car be where it needs to be.
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“I didn’t get my lap at the end, I got some traffic, then went wide at Turn 15, so I would’ve been in the top three time-wise there. But that’s still a real struggle. I think everyone was struggling, everyone was locking, going wide.
“I don’t know, I was not really unlucky, it was just a hard day. Getting the tires to work here was difficult, as we already knew would be the case. Was a bit of a messy couple of sessions, but still we’ve learned a lot and we’ll work as hard as we can tonight to try to make it better for tomorrow.”
Hamilton is adamant that the Pirelli tires are too hard for the conditions.
“The grip is very bad. I think it’s bad for everyone. I think everyone is struggling to get the tires working, the Red Bulls and the Ferraris perhaps less than some others, but everyone is struggling generally in the whole pit lane. These tires are just so hard, they’re too hard. You can’t come to this incredibly warm place and have the track at 50 degrees, and these tires still don’t work, it doesn’t make sense.”
Despite his own problems he was encouraged by the pace of his teammate.
“Definitely, I think we’re still in the fight for pole. Valtteri showed good pace, I think if I’d finished my lap, I would have been up there as well, but it’s definitely difficult because there’s this small window which we know that these tires work in. Particularly at this track it seems to be more difficult. I think today we had 20 percent more yellow flags than before, just shows you how tricky it is on these tires.
“I think a lot of it is contributed by these tires being a lot worse, in the sense that, bigger heavier stiffer harder, they just don’t work a lot of the time. We’re here at this circuit, where the track’s 50 degrees, and we’ve got the supersoft and the soft and neither of them work. And it’s almost like we have the hard and the extra-hard tire here. Extra-hard’s never even been made before, but it is the hard and the extra-hard, that’s the compounds we have here.”