TUZAL, Turkey – Lewis Hamilton opened the Turkish Grand Prix weekend at Istanbul Park by pacing both practice sessions Friday.
Hamilton, who leads the series standings by two points ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, set his fastest time during the second practice. His lap of 1:23.804 left him .166 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was second overall on the combined practice chart.
“The track felt so different to last year – in 2020, oil was rising from the new surface and the grip was so difficult to find,” Hamilton said. “Coming into this weekend, I didn’t know what to expect when we went out there but the level of grip was intense, it was awesome. The track is so much more enjoyable to drive.”
Despite pacing both practices, Hamilton knows going into Sunday’s race he’ll have his work cut out for him. He was handed a 10-place grid penalty after his Mercedes team installed a new engine prior to the start of action Friday. So even if he wins the pole Saturday, the best he’ll start is 11th.
“We’re fairly close to the maximum we can extract from the package but we always find something overnight, so we’ll be working hard to take our pace into tomorrow. Hopefully it isn’t raining,” Hamilton said. “I have a lot of work to do on Sunday and I need to just focus on getting the best out of tomorrow, obviously aiming for pole to limit the loss of the penalty.”
Behind Hamilton and Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas was third fastest overall in the second Mercedes. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fourth overall, followed by Verstappen in fifth.