Lewis Hamilton topped the early timesheets in Saudi Arabia today in both practice sessions as the Mercedes looks comfortable navigating the extremely fast track.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas also found his feet fairly quickly at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and was just 0.2secs behind in P3 this morning, and later took P2 just 0.061s off Hamilton in FP2.
Speaking after the early sessions, Hamilton praised the track, and said at this point the team’s long-run pace “seemed pretty good.”
“The track was rapid – unbelievably quick and with a lot of grip as well,” he said.
“Once you get in the rhythm, it’s beautiful to drive. The grip was very high from the moment we went out and was similar in both sessions.”
Speaking about the high-speed nature of the Saudi Arabian location, the British world champion said there are some dangers that naturally come with the layout of this circuit: “Traffic can be a problem here, it’s Monaco-esque and the closing distances to other cars was definitely getting dangerous.
“We tried a couple of things with our setup, and although we aren’t rapid on single-run pace compared to the others, our long-run pace seemed pretty good.
“The Medium and Hard tyre both performed well, the Soft is probably a little too soft for the highspeed sections, it feels like the tyre is giving up slightly.
“I’m generally happy with the setup, we changed a few things in between sessions, and we’ll work with the guys in the factory back home to make sure we have the correct setup for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, his teammate Valtteri sounded similarly confident but admitted one thing that surprised him in his first impressions of the Jeddah Circuit.
“The track is really cool, it’s full-gas and close to the walls at high-speed which is exactly what you want and enjoy – it’s an adrenaline rush. In FP1 the track was better than I expected, a little bit dusty but thanks to the other racing categories running here this weekend, it was improving step by step.
“They have done a nice job with the tarmac here, it was very grippy even though it’s new and with no real bumps, nice and smooth,” he continued.
“It was good to get confirmation of the grip level here, you base your starting setup on the simulations and estimated grip level, and we started in a good place.
“The biggest surprise today was the tyres – they lasted well and I’m not sure we’ll see many stops on Sunday. All the compounds seemed to work well here, even though you could feel the Softs giving up slightly in the high-speed corners.”