Hamilton ‘feeling great’ but expecting ‘super close’ race

Hamilton ‘feeling great’ but expecting ‘super close’ race

Lewis Hamilton “feels great” at the end of the first day of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but is expecting a “super close” race regardless.

Hamilton goes into Sunday’s final race tied with title rival Max Verstappen on 369.5 points, with a record eighth World Championship on the line for the Mercedes driver.

It is only the second time the top two have gone into the last grand prix of the season level on points after Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni in 1974.

Hamilton set the fastest time in FP2, going three-tenths clear after finishing third in FP1 behind Verstappen and team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Yas Marina Circuit.

“[The car] doesn’t feel too bad,” Hamilton said. “It started off good but got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made.

“Now we just have to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we home in. The target is always moving, but yes, otherwise, I feel good.

“I feel good, I feel great in my body and as I said, I think we made some positive steps set-up wise, so we’ll try and perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow.

“It’s obviously close between us all. We got through our sessions a bit unknown in terms of pace but I’m sure it’s going to be super close like it has been in previous races.”

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, however, was less upbeat about his team’s chances of success, citing Mercedes’ strength in the first two sectors.

“[Mercedes] look very competitive here, certainly in the first two sectors,” Horner said. “I think Sector 3 we come back at them, but the damage is done in the first two sectors. We’ve still got 24 hours or 23 hours [before qualifying] to try and find a better set-up and a bit more pace.

“We’ve got plenty of data, we’ve got some areas of the car we need to tidy up overnight. It’s going to be a long evening certainly here, back in Milton Keynes, trying to tidy up the car. I think the long run pace looked sensible; we just need to tidy up the pace for the short runs.”

Verstappen echoed Horner’s sentiments, finding some positives in the long runs, but admitting the short runs needed work.

“I mean, we’re still learning and understanding a few things but of course clearly the short run didn’t go to plan – lacking a bit of pace – but the long runs were quite a bit more competitive so of course, that’s also a bit more important,” Verstappen added.