October 4th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton had the best possible start to the Korean Grand Prix weekend: he was fastest in both Friday practice sessions. Nico Rosberg was never too far behind, and finished FP1 4th fastest and then went 3rd fastest in FP2. Mercedes are looking very strong for qualifying tomorrow and will be hoping to carry their performance into Sunday's race.
Hamilton has had a string of strong FP1 sessions in recent races, but has typically followed those up with a surprising lack of pace in FP2. In Korea, that was not the case, as the Mercedes seemed to deal equally well with the two different dry tyre compounds. On the medium tyre in FP1, Hamilton was a fraction quicker than Sebastian Vettel, and when he put the supersoft tyres on in FP2, he managed to maintain that advantage.
If Hamilton can carry this form into final practice and then qualifying, he could set himself up for a victory challenge on Sunday. However, Red Bull will be hard to beat and Mercedes will have to find more performance overnight if they are to stay ahead into qualfiying.
Hamilton expressed his happiness with Friday practice:
"I was very happy with how the sessions went today and it's the first time I can remember that second practice has really gone well for me. We haven't changed anything but the day just went smoothly and all the processes with the team worked well."
The Korea International Circuit is one that Hamilton and Rosberg both enjoy driving. Hamilton said of the citcuit, "I love this track: it was clean from the start, it provides good racing on Sunday afternoon and it just gets harder and harder through the lap. You have the first sector which is good for overtaking, then you get more and more corners coming at you and those final two sectors are all about precision. You need a good downforce package, too, and the car is feeling good. We can still make improvements overnight, and I have some things I want to do with the set-up, but it's been a good start for us. "
Nico Rosberg was similarly full of praise for the track: "The track is really great and the small changes that have been made this year are good improvements, especially the pit exit which is now much better."
Rosberg did provide a word of cautious on the battle with Red Bull however, saying, "Generally it seems that we had a good day but Red Bull is always very hard to beat. We were quite close to them today and I hope this will continue the whole weekend."
In terms of setup work that needs to be done ahead of Saturday practice, Rosberg did not feel there was too much performance left to find: "My only concern after the long runs was graining on the front tyres, which is something we need to work on tonight and watch out for. We have brought also some new bits and pieces to Korea which are working well and leaves me optimistic for a strong result this weekend."
Hamilton and Rosberg will be back on track for Free Practice 3 at 11am local time tomorrow morning.