Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes made some 'good steps' with W04 in Malaysia practice

Although admits taking on Red Bull and Lotus in dry will be tough

By James Galloway.   Last Updated: 22/03/13 4:37pm

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Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have succeeded in improving their W04's race pace so far at Sepang - although concedes taking the fight to the very top teams in dry conditions will be "very hard".

As revealed by Mercedes boss Ross Brawn direct from the pitwall during Sky Sports F1's live coverage of Friday Practice in Malaysia, the Brackley team, anticipating the arrival of late afternoon rain, deliberately sacrificed the usual time spent completing shorter runs at the start of the session to focus on improving set-up for the longer distances.

After Brawn declared that process a success, Hamilton enthusiastically concurred, and suggested they were poised for a stronger Sunday performance compared to last weekend at Albert Park, when he slid from third on the grid to fifth place.

"I felt like we made some good steps with the set-up," he told Sky Sports F1.

"I wasn't really able to exploit it over a single lap, but nonetheless I'm happy with where we're standing. I think we're stronger race-pace wise. If I'm honest when we did the long run it felt pretty strong and we went for quite a few laps.

"I'll go and see whether someone else did a long run and compare it, but it felt quick. The car felt better than it was in the last race, so fingers crossed it will be."

Nonetheless, Hamilton suggested Mercedes had plenty of challenges ahead to run at the very front of the grid irrespective of whether the remainder of the weekend proved wet or dry.

"It really depends what the weather's like tomorrow, but if the weather's as it was today it's going to be very tricky," he admitted.

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"If not, then it's going to be very hard to beat the Red Bulls and the Lotuses. But we'll give it everything we can."

Speaking during Friday's The F1 Show at the end of Friday's practice running, Sky F1 pundit Johnny Herbert said the team's early-weekend work certainly appeared to be going in the right direction.

"Solid work. It looked quite ugly early on - those tyres seemed to sort of have two bands on the left rear - but there seemed to be a little bit of a change in what Ross Brawn said when we spoke to him in the commentary," Johnny said.

"So they made some nice strides forward - exactly the same as in Australia. They weren't so good on the Friday but it got better."

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