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Hamilton feeling 'back to normal and ready to race'

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Japanese Grand Prix
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton is feeling a lot happier about his prospects this weekend in the Japanese Grand Prix, after suffering a setback last week in Malaysia.

Although the Mercedes driver salvaged second place at Sepang and extended his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel, the race had proved problematic for the team. The car had noticeably struggled for pace compared with Ferrari and Red Bull.

While Mercedes is yet to fully get to the bottom of its Malaysian malaise, Hamilton was feeling encouraged by his limited time in the car on Friday at Suzuka.

"The car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia," he confirmed after a rain-hit second practice. "The car feels back to normal, so I'm ready to race."

Hamilton finished the day with the second-fastest time of 1:29.377s. He had been a little over two tenths off the benchmark set by Vettel in the Ferrari. Those times were set in FP1, with the afternoon session largely a wash-out with heavy rain and dangerous lakes of standing water.

"It's been an interesting day," Hamilton smiled. "I'm glad that we had the dry session for FP1.

"In FP2 there was a lot of rain," he continued. "But it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling, as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia."

Hamilton was one of only five drivers to complete a timed lap after lunch. Afterwards he explained why he felt that it had been important to go out.

"The fans are pretty special here," he said. "To be out there in the rain, waiting for us to go out through the whole of FP2.

"I wanted to go out and at least give them a little bit of a show. Hopefully at least they got to see something, as not many cars went out."

Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas was one of six drivers not to venture out of the garage in the second practice session. He had been fifth fastest in the drier morning session.

"We didn't really run in FP2," he admitted. "It's a shame for the fans out there who were waiting to see us running."

Like Hamilton, Bottas was feeling encouraged by what he had managed to achieve in the morning before the rain moved in.

"The car did feel better than it did in Malaysia," he said. "But we still need to work on things to make the car quicker.

"As a starting point for the weekend, it definitely feels better than a week ago.

"My run with the soft tyres was good. But with the supersoft, I didn't really gain any grip, so the main thing for me is to understand the supersoft performance.

"The long runs actually weren't too bad, and hopefully we'll see better weather tomorrow."

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