After struggling with the balance of his Mercedes W12 in first practice, Hamilton showed impressive pace in the second session as he set the pace ahead of Verstappen and teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Going into this weekend’s grand prix at Portimao, only one point separates Hamilton and Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ championship, with the pair scoring one win each in the opening two rounds of the season.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s qualifying, Hamilton is sure there is more to come in terms of performance.

“I think everyone looks like they’re struggling with their balance out there today so it’s difficult to say whether or not it’s the car or it’s the wind or the track but it’s definitely been a real challenge today to keep the car on track,” Hamilton said.

“I think it’s going to be close run, looks like we’re close, don’t know how Max’s lap was but mine wasn’t perfect. We’ve definitely got some time to come from the car and some improvements to make but I’m sure they have too, but it’s close, as it has been the last couple of races so it’s exciting.”

Bottas got up to speed quickly at Portimao - as he did in 2020 - by topping the first practice session ahead of Verstappen.

Interestingly, Bottas’ 1m19.648s in FP1 was nearly 0.2s faster than Hamilton’s benchmark in the afternoon session.

Analysing his performance during Friday practice, Bottas preferred how the medium tyre performed, relative to the red-marked soft.

“Yes, I think it terms of pace it wasn’t a bad start,” Bottas said. “It’s good to see we’re there or thereabouts although, again, it’s going to be close, no doubt. I got a quite similar feeling to last year, it’s still a quite slippery tarmac, you know, and especially the rear of the car is pretty loose in some places, so it wasn’t the easiest of days. 

“It’s not easy to get clean laps and, for me, personally, the softer we went with the compounds, the trickier the car became, so I think the Medium tyre is the best working tyre so far, but there’s still work to do.”

 

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