Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Mercedes are a “long way off” their rivals at the Japanese Grand Prix, following a “pretty bad” opening day at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton entered the weekend on a real high of having demonstrated exceptional pace at the Singapore Grand Prix, which would’ve arguably been enough for victory had he not been held up behind George Russell.
The seven-time World Champion ended up finishing third in Singapore after Russell crashed on the final lap, promoting Hamilton onto the podium.
His rostrum at the Marina Bay Circuit gave the 38-year-old some hope that he could challenge for the leading places in Suzuka; however, that’s not looking like the case.
Hamilton ended Free Practice 1 at the Japanese GP in a shocking P16, whilst he could only salvage P14 in Free Practice 2.
The 103-time race winner was comfortably slower than Russell throughout the opening day, whilst he was just over a second behind pacesetter Max Verstappen.
Hamilton and Mercedes have a significant amount of work to do ahead of qualifying on Saturday, with the British driver admitting that the Silver Arrows need to work out what’s actually wrong with the car.
He admits that high-speed corners don’t work to Mercedes’ strengths currently, with that being “an area where we need to work on”.
“It was a pretty bad day to be honest. A real struggle out there. A long way off, two seconds off in the first session and over a second off in the second,” said Hamilton, as reported by Sky Sports F1.
“Just working away at trying to fix the car, fix the balance. It’s just figuring out what is wrong. We were obviously much closer in the last race but we didn’t have any high-speed (corners) and nowhere near the speeds of the corners here.
“Our car has more often than not been a little bit weaker in the high-speed corners, looking at places like Silverstone for example.
“An area where we need to work on, getting the car a little bit more in a sweet spot and not overheating our tyres as much.
“We’ll work on it overnight and try to turn it around for [Saturday]. We definitely won’t be winning this weekend but if I can move a little bit further up the order so I can at least back up George, who did not such a bad lap. A tough one.”
Should Hamilton find some pace on Saturday and qualify towards the front, then he’ll be in with a shout of claiming a 197th career podium.