Lewis Hamilton described the second practice session on Friday in Singapore as the “best FP2 session” he’s experienced so far in 2023.
The Briton classified fifth in FP1, less than two-tenths away from the benchmark time set by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during a hugely competitive first daylight hour.
With FP2 the only practice session held in twilight conditions similar to those the drivers will encounter in qualifying and the race, the emphasis on maximising track time and dialling into a groove around the Marina Bay Circuit is heightened on Friday evening.
Although he dropped almost half a second away from the pace in the second session, Hamilton was enthused by the confidence he built up inside the cockpit of his W14.
“FP1 was solid. We were still a little bit off where we wanted to be, but it wasn’t too bad. FP2 was for sure the best FP2 session I’ve had this year,” he underlined. “It was nice to finish a Friday feeling so positive.”
Mercedes have traditionally taken a sizeable step forward overnight between Friday and Saturday, leaving Hamilton hopeful the team will be in competitive shape for qualifying.
He added: “I think we’ve got a good platform to build off for the rest of the weekend. It’s the best I’ve felt from a Friday this year, so I hope we can do some good work overnight, as we always tend to do, and continue to improve.”
Construction work taking place around the Marina Bay Circuit has resulted in changes to the track layout for this year’s event.
The sequence that previously made up Turns 16-19 has been replaced with a kinked straight, reducing lap times by 10s.
Hamilton is delighted with the track alterations imposed, believing the circuit is better to drive than it’s ever been since it debuted on the calendar in 2008.
“It’s been a great day here in Singapore. They have done an amazing job with the track changes; I love driving this circuit now more than ever,” he expressed.
“The new track surface is great, and it made the track even more enjoyable to drive. Then the removal of the four corners near the end of the lap has absolutely perfected the circuit. It’s incredible to drive.”
George Russell, meanwhile, says the first day of track action in Singapore represented a “very positive Friday” for Mercedes.
The ex-Williams driver trailed Hamilton in the opening encounter but rebounded in FP2 to establish himself as the Ferrari pair’s nearest contender, coming up two-tenths short.
Russell is expecting an increasingly tight battle across the remainder of the weekend, and, like Hamilton, is banking on Mercedes unlocking some improvements overnight.
“The car is feeling really good around the circuit,” Russell noted. “It definitely improved in the cooler temperatures of FP2 but equally, it still felt decent in the slightly unrepresentative conditions of FP1.
“The times were very tight between several cars. Ferrari looked quick, particularly on the single lap.”
“The long run performance across a number of competitors was also strong but we can be optimistic heading into the weekend.
“We will do our usual work overnight and hopefully find some improvements heading into Saturday.”