Lewis Hamilton jokes about Mercedes pace with Rosanna Tennant as he delivers bad news

Mercedes had some work to do on Friday night.

Sir Lewis Hamilton was determined to remain in good spirits after a tough day at the office for Mercedes.

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell put 23 laps on the board, collectively, as the 24-year-old finished the opening practice session P4, with Hamilton further down in ninth.

One second separated the pair, so it was evident that slightly different set-ups and fuel loads were being used by the German side.

The seven-time champion improved to sixth in Friday’s second hour, but remained over a second adrift of the pace set by Max Verstappen, after Russell had got to within eight tenths of Carlos Sainz in FP1.

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The former Williams driver finished eighth on Friday afternoon, two tenths behind his team-mate, as impressive showings from Lando Norris and Lance Stroll saw them finish third and fourth respectively.

It has often been the case so far in 2022 that the Silver Arrows have struggled in practice, before pulling things together in qualifying and the race, so a tricky opening day in Spa is far from a disaster.

Hamilton was told by Rosanna Tennant after FP2 that she assumed he and Russell were on heavy fuel loads, but he affirmed that the pace simply was not there.

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“I want to assume the same thing,” he joked.

“I wouldn’t say so no, we just weren’t very quick, I don’t know why.

“I really don’t know, we’re going out and giving it everything we’ve got, it’s just… it could be tyres, it could be tyre temps, it could be wing level, it could be a multitude of things.

“So, it doesn’t feel disastrous out there, it’s just we’re a long way off, but we often find this on the Friday and then things change a little bit more on Saturday, so I hope that’s the case.”

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Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will join Norris, Mick Schumacher, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas in starting further back on Sunday, giving a chance to Russell and Hamilton to grab a second consecutive Mercedes pole.

The 37-year-old confirmed that neither he nor his team-mate will be taking a penalty this weekend.

“I mean everyone’s at risk, but we’re not taking any penalties, the team have done a great job on that,” added Hamilton.

“We’ve just got to work hard tonight to analyse the data, try to figure out where we can get with this car.

“It doesn’t feel the same as it did at the last track in qualifying kind of time, but Friday and Saturday morning, it feels kind of similar to that now so that gives me hope that we can turn it around.”

Hamilton and Russell have managed 11 podiums between them this season, and Mercedes have closed the gap to Ferrari to just 30 points in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Standings.