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Bahrain F1 Grand Prix: Hamilton ‘feeling strong’ after practice

Lewis Hamilton is optimistic about another Mercedes F1 success this weekend, even if he says the team still has work to do in Bahrain.

Lewis Hamilton refused to contemplate another Mercedes 1-2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix but warned rivals that he and the team were feeling confident after their strong start to the 2014 F1 season.

The Briton topped both times at the Bahrain International Circuit on day one of the meeting, with Mercedes comfortably out-pacing its opposition under the lights as FP2 heralded the event's shift towards night-time racing, but Hamilton was quick to point out that practice proved very little when it came to predicting the future.

"You don't know what fuel people are on [in these sessions] so, when you get to qualifying, you get a better understanding of where everyone stands,” he explained, "But we feel strong, I feel strong in the car, so let's hope [another 1-2] is the case.

"Nico's very quick, very competitive. He was half a second quicker around here than me in qualifying last year, so I have to dial the car in. But, as always, the race isn't won in qualifying. It's all about getting the car ready for the race."

Having seen Mercedes-powered cars to the fore in both of the pre-season tests staged at the Bahrain circuit, it was no surprise to hear Hamilton report positively after the two 90-minute Friday sessions, confident that Mercedes was continuing to take steps forward.

"The car feels better than when we were testing here and, balance-wise, it feels really good,” he noted, “There's still some tweaks we need to make to make it feel perfect, but it's feeling very good.

“We've got a bit better, we've got a better understanding of the car and we know how to set the car up a little bit better than in testing. When you're testing, you are testing so many different things that you can't really set the car up and, here, we are working on set-up for the race weekend and it feels good.

"It's been a pretty decent day. I've loved driving today, and I've a much better feel of where I need to put the car so I'm very happy with the sessions."

Mercedes arrives in Bahrain with two wins from the first two races of 2014, with Hamilton having headed team-mate – and Melbourne winner – Nico Rosberg across the line in Malaysia last Sunday, but he still felt obliged to sound a note of caution as F1 proceeds into round three of its new, and still unpredictable, technological era.

"It's definitely good to come here off a positive weekend, with that momentum, but we still have a lot of work to do to really dial in the car, both in qualifying and the race,” he pointed out, "It's still going to be tough, particularly with the temperatures dropping all the time, so the balance is shifting throughout the run. It's still going to be a real challenge."

The cooler temperatures expected for both qualifying and the race suggest that making tyres last is going to be a tougher task than at either of the opening rounds, something that, for Mercedes, has been a concern of late.

"That's the trick,” Hamilton confirmed, “We struggled a bit with the tyres, as everyone does. It's going to be similar to testing and there's still just as big a gap [between the compounds]."

By contrast, driving after dark proved less arduous, with Hamilton full of praise for the 495 floodlights that have been installed around BIC.

"They're great,” he enthused, “At first, you don't really notice a lot of difference, [and] I've not really noticed any issues, no black spots. The visibility is perfect. They've done a fantastic job with the circuit. It looks even better at night, and it's nice being cooler, so I'm looking forward to the race.”

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04.04.2014- free Practice 1, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W05
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