Lewis set the pace in both practice sessions on a much-improved track surface at Istanbul Park, enjoying the increased grip levels. Valtteri banked consistent running while experimenting with a range of balance configurations, with both drivers running the Medium and Soft tyre compounds.
Lewis Hamilton: 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. 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.
We started off with a really great setup in FP1, the first session was strong. We made some changes between the sessions and combined with track evolution, the car didn’t feel quite as good but we made some important learnings, for sure. 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! 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.
Valtteri Bottas: Today was a lot faster than last year! FP1 today was over 10 seconds faster than last year and it’s actually become one of the grippiest tracks we have on the calendar which makes it a lot of fun – I enjoyed it today. Last year the balance was geared towards correcting understeer with the low grip but now we can be a bit more aggressive with the car.
In FP1 we were all trying to adapt and read the balance. Our starting point was a bit off but by FP2, the car was feeling was pretty good. No big issues and no red flags so a lot of running and it feels like it could be a strong weekend for us. Looking at the timing board, it looks like a good track for Ferrari but I’m sure Red Bull have a lot more to come, as we all do. It’s going to be close.
Andrew Shovlin: We’ve had a solid day; both cars are showing good pace on single lap and long run. We had to move the setup quite a bit over the course of the day as the track had more grip than we were expecting but it looks like we have ended up in about the right place. We need to go through the data to understand where the three tyre compounds are in terms of pace and degradation; we’d expected them to suffer a bit more given the high energy corners here but they seem to be holding up surprisingly well.
It feels like other teams may have come in with the same preconceptions, as we saw a lot of soft tyres being used over the course of the day. The indications from free practice are that it’s going to be quite a challenge for Lewis to overtake on track but we’re looking at all the options available to us in strategy and on car setup to allow us to fight back on Sunday. Valtteri has had a good start to the weekend and looked to have the edge on Max today. We’ll be working hard to try and keep that edge as it’s obviously a big boost to both championships if we can get Valtteri in front on Saturday and Sunday.