Hamilton dominated both free practice sessions on the Jeddah Corniche street circuit, narrowly edging teammate Valtteri Bottas and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in the second session.
Title rival Max Verstappen finished fourth in FP2 in Red Bull, two tenths behind Hamilton, after the Dutchman finished second to the world champion in the first session.
Despite being the fastest out of the gates, Hamilton believes his Mercedes car still needs work on one lap, while being happier on the long runs.
“We’re not quick on one lap, I would say, compared to the others, but the long run isn’t too bad,” Hamilton said on Friday night.
“We made some changes between sessions. I don’t know which one I want to stay with.
“We’ll study tonight and work with the guys at the factory to try and make sure we find the right setup tomorrow. It’s definitely not in a bad place.
“I think, like I said on one lap, they [Red Bull] are pretty fast, so we have a bit of work to do. “
Mercedes trackside technical director Andrew Shovlin explained that a Mercedes lap problem was with the optimal use of Pirelli’s softer tire compound on a lap in nighttime conditions, as the tires would be on the soft side for this particular trail.
“I think we’re happy with the car’s performance over the long haul,” Shovlin told Sky. “On just one lap we were happier this morning than we were in the afternoon, we kind of have a hard time getting the grip out of the tires, and especially on this soft.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“Now we’ve got some ideas of what to do out there to figure out our own problem, and we’re just going to be busy tonight trying to make it better.
“The morning was a happier situation for us when the track was a little warmer. To move on to the night session, we really struggled.
“The long run looked solid and that tends to tell you that the basic performance is there in the car. We just have to make all the settings to get the tires in the right window for that one lap in Q3.”