Lewis Hamilton has conceded Mercedes has got a huge amount of work ahead to fix its balance issues with the W07 after losing FP1 to rain and the end of the second session to a red flag triggered by Romain Grosjean’s crash.

The Formula 1 world championship leader could only manage sixth place on the FP2 timesheet with a best lap of 1m 32.667s, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas in seventh, as Mercedes found itself over 1.5 seconds off pace-setter Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Both Mercedes drivers suffered small offs during FP2 which delayed their qualifying simulation to check over the cars before their track time was prematurely halted 15 minutes early due to Grosjean’s crash triggered by a loose drain cover.

Hamilton admitted it was a difficult Friday for Mercedes at the Sepang International Circuit where they expected to be strong but the three-time F1 world champion is certain his team can resolve its set-up issues ahead of FP3 and qualifying.

“It's been a very difficult day,” Hamilton said. “I've been struggling with the car today, so we have to review and try to understand where we have gone wrong with the balance.

“We're hoping that we're able to find our bearings overnight and regroup for tomorrow. I had a great group of people who were in front of my garage today all day long, sending really positive energy. So a big thank you to everyone there.”

Bottas echoed his team-mate’s comments with the set-up of his Mercedes in Malaysia but his issues focused around a lack of grip, a frequent problem for the Finnish driver in recent races, as he plays catch-up to Ferrari and Red Bull.

“Those were obviously tricky practice sessions,” Bottas said. “We had quite limited running because of the rain in the morning. I also had a bit of an off in FP2 that cost us some time, we lost a few laps because of that. And then there was of course the red flag in the end.

“We didn't get all the test items tested today, but I think that is going to be the case with all the teams. We're definitely lacking some performance, it seems like Ferrari and Red Bull are very strong.

“So we have some work to do if we want to be on the front row tomorrow. The car balance itself didn't feel too bad; it's just a question of overall grip. The key area we are going to need to focus on tonight will be getting the maximum out of the tyres over one lap.”

 

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