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Lewis Hamilton encounters more tyre trouble in Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Lewis Hamilton believes he is still in the fight for pole position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix if he can get his tyres working over a single lap in qualifying.

The second practice session saw a record number of yellow flags as drivers made mistakes at various parts of the circuit in the pursuit of lap time. Hamilton, who finished the second session tenth fastest, believes he was on a lap capable of challenging the top three when yellow flags forced him to back off at Turn 15.

Lewis Hamilton. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images
But unlike Monaco, where he struggled to hook up a clean lap for the majority of the weekend and qualified 13th, Hamilton believes pole position is still possible on Saturday.

"Definitely I think we are still in the fight for pole," he said. "Valtteri showed good pace and I think if I finished my lap I would have been up there as well.

"It's definitely difficult because there's a small window which we know that these tyres work in, particularly at this track it seems to be the most difficult. I think today I had 20 per cent more yellow flags than ever before so it just shows how tricky it is with these tyres."

Keeping the tyres in the optimum temperature window has been a problem for Mercedes all season and recently led to team boss Toto Wolff calling the car "a bit of a diva". Hamilton has a couple of different names for it.

"I think yesterday I said it was 'a badass mother' because it can be a badass mother. But it can also be a real bitch!"

Part of the struggle of keeping the tyres in the right working range is that they loose temperature while running on Baku's long straights. Pirelli believes that the larger surface area of this year's tyres compared to last year's exacerbates the issue and Hamilton's comments tend to back that up.

"Yeah, it's way worse. I think a lot of it is contributed by these tyres being a lot worse in the sense that [they are] bigger, heavier, stiffer, harder and just don't work a lot of the time. We are here at this circuit where the track is 50 degrees when you have the super-soft and soft, and neither of them work.

"It's almost like we have the hard and extra-hard tyre here. Extra-hard has never been made before but it's the hard and extra-hard -- that's the compounds we have here."

With Red Bull topping the timesheets in both Friday practice sessions, Hamilton believes this weekend's race could be one of the most competitive of the season.

"I think the Ferrari has been looking strong as always. The Red Bulls... I don't know if they've brought an upgrade here but they were fantastic. We have potentially a three-way battle which is great."

Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/19719037/lewis-hamilton-encounters-more-tyre-trouble-baku

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