Racing on a new engine, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in both Friday practice sessions for the Turkish Grand Prix.
The championship leader took the first session over his title rival, Max Verstappen, and in the second he beat Charles Leclerc, who drove his Ferrari impressively in both.
“The (engine) changes were good,” said Hamilton. “I’m not sure it felt so good in the second session.”
Hamilton is F1’s record holder with 101 pole positions and needs a solid performance in Saturday’s qualifying to limit the damage of a 10-place penalty on the starting grid for Sunday’s race due to an engine change. .
“I need to be on pole to limit the loss,” said Hamilton, who is outscored by Verstappen 7-3 in pole positions this season.
Even if Hamilton takes pole 102 of his career, he will start in 11th place and be fighting traffic. Fernando Alonso, two-time F1 champion and Alpine driver; ultra-fast Ferrari driver Leclerc and the McLaren duo of the canny Daniel Ricciardo and the talented Lando Norris could be tough to pass.
“They (Ferrari) are going to be tough to pass, just like (Alpine) and McLaren,” acknowledged Hamilton.
You should know by now.
Hamilton was brilliantly contained for 20 laps by Norris at the Austrian Grand Prix in July and superbly blocked by Alonso at the Hungarian GP in August when the Spaniard’s teammate, Esteban Ocon, won the race in dramatic fashion.
“They (Alpine) seem to be getting better and better,” Hamilton said.
A 101st victory that would extend the F1 record for Hamilton seems unlikely, unless circumstances improve for the Briton.
Hamilton entered the garage 10 minutes into the second session after complaining about a lack of grip on his front tires.
Once the matter was sorted, the Mercedes star went to the front of the table for the remainder of the second session. He finished 0.17 seconds ahead of Leclerc and 0.41 seconds faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen did not show off his usual speed and finished in fifth, behind his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez of Mexico.
While conditions were dry in Istanbul Park, veteran Kimi Raikkonen ended up with wet feet as his beverage bottle leaked into his boots. The 41-year-old Finn did not live up to his nickname, “The Ice Man,” and swore to describe the effects when he reproached the Alfa Romeo mechanics.
Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, who like his Haas teammate Mick Schumacher has yet to score a single point this season, lost control of his car and turned off the track near the end of the second session.
A third practice session will be run on Saturday before qualifying.
In the first session, Hamilton was 0.43 seconds ahead of Verstappen and 0.48 seconds over Leclerc, with Bottas in fourth place.
Hamilton holds a two-point lead over Verstappen with seven races remaining, including the Turkish GP.