Lewis Hamilton was optimistic that the upgrades to his Mercedes have had the desired effect, but the bumpy track surface in Austin made for a “horrible” ride on Friday.
The seven-time World Champion went third fastest in FP1 in his upgraded W13, with the team having fitted its last package of improvements of the season at the Circuit of The Americas.
Several significant changes have been made to the car, and Hamilton was able to lap within half a second of Carlos Sainz’s session-topping time in first practice.
FP2 was something of a non-event by comparison, though, as a 90-minute session took place to test Pirelli’s 2023 tyre compounds – making meaningful conclusions hard to draw from the second part of Friday’s running.
But from the evidence the Mercedes driver gathered from FP1, he feels like the team has moved in the right direction.
“I kept the car in one piece today, which is good, and definitely felt improvements in the car,” Hamilton told reporters after Friday practice.
Toto Wolff and Mohammed Ben Sulayem seen chatting in the Mercedes garage.
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“Obviously this [FP2] was a bit of a waste of a session in terms of performance but P1 was feeling quite good.
“I’m hoping we make some changes tonight and we’ll find out tomorrow exactly where we stand. But it doesn’t feel like we’re too far away from everyone.”
The track surface in Austin has been partially resurfaced to try and remove some of the bumps which are a prominent feature of COTA, but the stiffer suspension and 18-inch wheels on the new generation of Formula 1 car still made for a “horrible” experience, which he said with a knowing laugh and wince.
“I came here after Montreal and I drove last year’s car and it was so good,” Hamilton elaborated.
“I remember getting out and just beaming from ear to ear because it was so smooth and had good downforce, good power. This year obviously we lost a bit of power with the biofuels.
“The car is so stiff now. Coming and driving the car, luckily I don’t actually have many [dental] fillings because, if I did, they would have all come out this year, for sure.
“It’s just so, so bumpy. I’m really praying for a non-bumpy car next year.”