Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes is losing nearly a full second to chief Formula 1 rivals Ferrari on the straights alone following Friday practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

The 2019 championship leader ended Friday’s running with the fourth-fastest time in his Mercedes, winding up 0.798s adrift of the pace set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while both Ferraris were also ahead.

Hamilton is concerned Mercedes’ straightline speed deficit to Ferrari will prove too much to overturn, adding the Scuderia is “improving at a serious rate”.

“It’s been a day of discovery and exploring, it started off not too bad and then it didn’t really improve as with the others, made some big progressions, we anticipated, we’re losing eight tenths of a second to the Ferraris on the straights,” Hamilton explained.

“Nonetheless, we have been improving, but they are improving at a serious rate. So we’re just trying to figure out how we can improve the car, but it’s not an easy task.

“The balance started off good, then it kind of tailed off, and then it was a bit better towards the end of the second session.

“It’s crazy because you’re constantly trying to track the track progression and as the track progression goes up, the balance shifts, so you make some changes, the front have come in better or the rears have come in better.

“It’s a constant balancing act. You only have a few opportunities to change with the set-up. It’s going to be tough day tomorrow, but I hope it’s going to be raining, I heard it’s going to be raining!”

Asked if he feels Mercedes can find enough time to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull, Hamilton replied: “That is the million dollar question, I don’t know.

“Naturally I believe in my guys. I don’t think we’re getting the maximum maximum out of our car.

“That’s been the key issue we have had for the last three races. We’re still trying to discover it. It’s not easy out there.

“It’s good to see the competition doing well. But we want to be in there fighting.”

2017 Russian GP winner Valtteri Bottas, who outpaced his teammate in both sessions, says he is hoping for rain to affect proceedings on Saturday.

“Red Bull and Ferrari were a bit too quick today,” he added.

“It felt good, there was no massive balance issues with the car, just maybe struggling a little bit with the overall grip and sliding around.

“But apart from that, it felt good and I had fun, but obviously we need to find some gains if we want to fight for the pole tomorrow.

“In any case, I believe Sunday we have a good chance - actually I hope for rain tomorrow. I think we might have a better chance in qualifying.”



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