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Hamilton defiant over Mercedes pace despite Suzuka gulf

Hamilton defiant over Mercedes pace despite Suzuka gulf

Hamilton defiant over Mercedes pace despite Suzuka gulf

Hamilton defiant over Mercedes pace despite Suzuka gulf

Lewis Hamilton has defiantly declared it to be a good weekend for Mercedes so far despite the gulf to the leading trio following qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was out-qualified by Esteban Ocon in the Alpine as the dry weather on Saturday worked against the Silver Arrows, with the seven-time F1 champion and team-mate George Russell lining up sixth and eighth respectively.

Hamilton had looked competitive in second practice during similar conditions, yet by the end of qualifying the gap to Max Verstappen on pole was nine-tenths of a second, with Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz within 0.054s.

Mercedes' issues lie in the middle and final sectors, with the long runs from the hairpin to Spoon and then down to the 130R exposing the W13's poor drag efficiency.

But questioning suggestions of a difficult weekend given the circuit characteristics, Hamilton insisted: "It wasn't so bad yesterday.

"We weren't that quick on the straights, that is for sure.

"Otherwise, the car has been feeling really good. It has been a good couple of days. Good running yesterday and good set-up changes today.

"I am generally really happy with the way qualifying went. Of course, we are nine-tenths off but I try and look at the positives.

"Going into qualifying I didn't know how far we would be off.

"I was a bit surprised when we were three-tenths off in Q2 and then all of a sudden we were nine-tenths off in Q3. I don't understand where the time goes but three-quarters of that is on the straights."

Rain is forecast for the race at Suzuka, though the intensity and timing of the showers change by the hour.

On the potential chances presented by the weather front, Hamilton explained: "I think rain always opens up more opportunity.

"It could be not the most exciting race if it is dry, at least for us."

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