Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged the Friday pace of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari as a significant threat, as Mercedes failed to impress in the opening practice sessions.

Both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg seemed to struggle to set competitive lap times during their race simulations in the second free practice, falling between half a second to a second per lap from the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.

“The other guys are fast,” Hamilton said.

“No problems at all, they are just fast. This is always a race where people are closer and the gap is always closer. They are even closer this weekend and potentially even ahead.”

While there is always the chance that Mercedes could have been running a higher fuel load, Hamilton has expressed his concern over tyre wear and is weighing up his options of a two or three stopping race.

“It’s going to be one of the two. I’m not sure, the tyres are not lasting very well, so we will target two because it’s faster but it depends and we could go for three. It’s very close between the two.

“We did lighter fuel runs and then we did the long runs, so the focus is the same as every weekend.

“Definitely we have a genuine challenge from these guys. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, it’s going to be interesting that’s for sure.”

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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