Lewis Hamilton's struggles continue at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Mercedes driver off the pace during practice as Leclerc leads the way

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during practice for the Azerbaijan GP in Baku. Getty
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Lewis Hamilton remained optimistic about the season even as his Mercedes car continued to struggle in the ongoing Formula One season.

Hamilton heads into Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix - the eighth round of 22 this season - already 75 points behind Max Verstappen.

And his Mercedes team were still tackling the porpoising problems which have wreaked havoc on their campaign as both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell suffered from heavy bouncing during practice on Friday.

He eventually came in 12th with Russell in the other Mercedes in seventh.

However, the British champion is optimistic Mercedes has made progress toward challenging the Formula One leaders and said the “adversity” of struggling to keep up has brought the team closer together.

Russell, who has finished ahead of Hamilton at every round bar the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to move 34 points clear of his team-mate in the standings, finished seventh, 1.3 seconds off the pace.

"The hardest thing about today was the bouncing," said Hamilton. "I am a bit sore but I will get by.

"We're hitting serious speeds at the end of the straight and bottoming out. We're facing the same problems as in the last race.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc during practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. AFP

"We tried something experimental on my car in the second session, it didn't feel great but at least we tried it and we got some useful data to go through. We'll probably revert to the original set up tomorrow.

"I can't tell you one specific area which is costing us the 1.3 or 1.6 sec difference to the front - a lot of it seems to be on the straight - but we need to get our heads down tonight and find solutions."

“Can I say it’s the best, most exciting journey? No, but it is an experience and it’s bringing the team closer,” Hamilton added on Friday.

“It’s making us all have to sharpen our tools. The technology is advancing a lot to be able to understand it, and we’re pulling closer than ever before. I guess that’s what happens when you’re faced with adversity, and so there’s lots and lots of positives.”

Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc planted his Ferrari clear of in-form Sergio Perez at the top of the times in practice and hoped his team have ironed out the problems that surfaced in Monaco.

A bungled strategy contributed in Leclerc getting shortchanged with only fourth place from pole in Monaco behind Red Bull's Perez last time out.

"There was plenty to analyse after Monaco as we made some mistakes," Leclerc said before practice began.

"What gives me confidence for the future is that we found the reasons for those errors. This is good news for the future."

Updated: June 11, 2022, 9:40 AM