The seven-time world champion finished outside the top 10 in both practice sessions on Friday and ended the day a lowly 14th, over one second slower than Max Verstappen’s benchmark. 

Just as he did in Singapore, teammate George Russell appeared to hold the edge as he took fifth with a time 0.501s faster than Hamilton, who admitted he has started the Suzuka weekend on the back foot. 

Asked if FP2 had felt any better than FP1 (where Hamilton was 16th), he replied: “Nope! It was a really 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, so just working away to try and fix the car and the balance.”

Hamilton added: “It is just [about] figuring out what is wrong. We obviously were much closer in the last race but we didn’t have any high-speed. 

“There was only one high-speed corner but it is not as high as the corners here. Our car is more often than not more weaker in high-speed corners. 

“It is an area where we need to work on to get the car in a better sweet-spot and not overheating our tyres as much. 

“We will work on it overnight and try to turn it around but we definitely won’t be winning this weekend. 

“If I can particularly move a little bit up the order so I can at least back up… George did not so bad a lap, so yeah. Tough one.” 

Russell described it as a “half-reasonable day” but said it is clear that Red Bull are back to their “normal ways” after suffering a shock defeat in Singapore. 

“Red Bull are back to their normal ways, which I don’t think is a major surprise,” he said. “They seem very, very quick but not too far from P2. I think there’s two-tenths in it. So I think they’ll be a good fight between the Ferraris and Lando.

“We’re probably half a second behind Ferrari and Lando, so we got a bit of work to do tonight to close that gap. It’s going to be a really interesting race Sunday because tyre deg looks really really high.”