Hamilton, who ended Friday practice third-quickest behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and teammate Valtteri Bottas, ran a different rear wing configuration on his car as Mercedes split its strategy throughout the day.

In the first session Hamilton reported he was “massively slow on the straights” as he trailed a high-downforce set-up, before testing out a low-downforce approach for FP2.

“It’s a massively challenging circuit trying to find that balance, and this morning we had it one way, we changed it for this afternoon, it was very, very similar,” Hamilton explained.

“You go faster in the first and third sector but you go slower in the middle, or you go quick in the middle but slow in the other two. So trying to find that balance is very tricky.”

With mixed weather conditions forecast for the rest of the weekend, the teams face a difficult decision over whether to favour outright top speed, or gamble on trying to boost their prospects for a potential wet race.

Hamilton warned the difference between getting the call right or wrong could prove make-or-break.

“Naturally if it’s guaranteed to rain then you would want more downforce, but then if it doesn’t rain and the weatherman’s wrong - or the weatherwoman’s wrong - then you’re a sitting duck on the straights,” he said.

“So we have to be very, very careful and cautious with the set-up changes we make over the next day. But it’s not our first rodeo.”


Bottas is leaning more towards maxing out his straightline speed given that he is set to drop five places on the grid for Sunday’s race after being penalised for triggering the Turn 1 chaos in Hungary.

“It didn’t look too bad today, the pace we had both in the short and the long runs was pretty decent,” said Bottas.

“It’s always tricky to compare in detail, from practice, but at least the feeling is good - that’s a positive.

“We definitely seem quite fast on the straightlines. Maybe less so in sector two, with all the corners, but probably for me, for the race, it’s important to be quick in sectors one and three.

“If it rains, you definitely want more downforce,” the Finn added. “So we need to see session by session how it’s going to look, but it’s going to be a key decision, what we choose for qualifying.”