Lewis Hamilton says he’s pushing both himself and his Mercedes car outside of their comfort zones to try to unlock potential setup improvements from experimental changes for 2020 with this season’s Formula 1 world title battle already decided.

Having wrapped up the 2019 F1 world drivers’ title back in the United States, while Mercedes secured the world constructors’ crown at October’s Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton has loosened his practice focus to explore previously untrusted setups to understand where performances gains can be found for next season both from his driving style and from his F1 car.

Hamilton ended Friday practice second fastest as part of a Mercedes 1-2 with Valtteri Bottas 0.310s ahead.

With a competitive setup ready to fall back on, Hamilton says his experimental process gives further focus towards 2020 as he targets a historic seventh F1 world title.

“I am really pushing the car into a different place over the last two races just to explore,” Hamilton explained. “It is easy to go too far but I am sticking with it and hoping that it works.

“We already know what does work and I am not keen to do what does work, I am really trying to see where else I can exploit the car and the tyres. That is making it a little bit more erratic and not as smooth and simple in terms of my driving style.

“I wouldn’t say that it is fun. It is still hard work and I am making it a little bit more difficult for myself than it needs to be but I feel I need to go through that process to see if I can edge out a little bit more for the future.”

With Mercedes anticipating a greater challenge to its current F1 domination from Ferrari and Red Bull, Hamilton accepts making early 2020 preparations with this year’s car must to be taken “with a pinch of salt” but expects clear and representative data will give his team a timely jump for next season.

“I am definitely hoping to unlock something and utilise a couple of different tools that I haven’t touched during the year because they never really worked before,” he said.

“I am trying to explore and see whether or not I can get them to work. It is a pre-emptive thought for next year even though next year’s car is going to be different.

“There still might be things I can apply but I am having to take it all with a pinch of salt at the moment.”

Hamilton, four-time winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will be Mercedes’ main hope of maintaining its perfect winning record at the Yas Marina Circuit during the V6 Hybrid era with teammate Bottas set to start from the back of the grid due to a penalty for power unit changes.

Sebastian Vettel was the last non-Mercedes driver to win in Abu Dhabi with Red Bull back in 2013.

 

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