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Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap in Spielberg was a lonely class
The rubber must not be too cold, otherwise the tires do not offer grip; but also not too hot, because otherwise the rain tires will dissolve into their individual parts. In practical terms, you might think that a team then has a system like DAS (Dual Axis Steering) that is supposed to serve to better manage the tire temperature in the warm-up laps.
All the more surprising that DAS was not used in qualifying. At least that’s what Toto Wolff says: “I don’t think we used DAS in any of the laps. But the tire temperatures definitely play a role. You could see at the last light at the traffic light that some teams had very hot tires that steamed, and others don’t. “
“I suspect it’s more about set-up, how to get the tires into the correct temperature window yourself in the session. If not, then you lack grip,” explains the Mercedes team boss. “If the tires are too hot, you are on the other end of the spectrum. This is just as counterproductive.”
Hamilton: Biggest lead since Rosberg in 2014
But pole setter Lewis Hamilton did not need DAS to blow his first pursuer Max Verstappen, himself a declared rain specialist, an incredible 1.216 seconds behind. That is the biggest advantage of a pole setter in Formula 1 since Silverstone 2014, when Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari lost 1.620 seconds!
Wolff enthuses: “In very rare moments we see performances that are simply not from this planet. If you look at the onboard, he balanced the car to the limit, with aquaplaning. His accelerator control was incredible. And I don’t remember, the last time we were 1.2 seconds between the first and second. “
Even if Verstappen would have been much closer to Hamilton in the third sector of his last lap without his spin. In the first sector, the Red Bull pilot had only lost 0.033, in the second then 0.375 on Hamilton. Assuming that he would have lost some time in the last sector, it would have been around half a second.
Hamilton still raves about the fact that his last lap was “honestly fantastic”: “The art of managing the tires well, the battery, knowing exactly when to do your few laps with the high-quality engine mode, the right gaps to look for and not make a mistake when it matters. “
“That was a lap! The one before that would have been enough, but the last lap was really as close to perfect as it is possible in such conditions. And when I think that the rain increased in the end, it does I am even happier that I was even able to improve, “said the Mercedes superstar.
Silverstone 2008: Hamilton’s masterpiece
This brings back memories of his magical rain race in Silverstone 2008, in which he lapped everyone up to the top 3 and drove more than a minute ahead of the runner-up (Nick Heidfeld).
“There you become one with your car,” he reports, “and you have to master the dynamics of your driving style from curve to curve when all the puddles come along and change constantly. And you have to make sure that you don’t have a car in front of you, which is also an enormous challenge. All the more I’m super happy. “
Wolff is impressed. Laps like this are only possible, he says, when “the driver and the car merge and become one. A perfect car, with the tires in the right temperature window, perfect driveability of the power unit mix with the skill and intelligence of the racing driver: only then can you see such accomplishments. “
But with all praise for exceptional talent Hamilton: Every pole is also a team effort. Wolff does not want to go unmentioned: “In such conditions, you really have to be up to speed with instructing the driver where the gaps are and how the weather is developing. The driver feeds back what he sees on the track. The Intercom protocol has to be very precise. “
“It helps a lot if the engineer and driver have been working together for a long time and trust each other. Then you can be very direct with your messages because the relationship is solid. If you had heard all the radio messages between the pit wall and the garage, then I have to say that I’m really proud of the team today! It was all perfectly synchronized. “
(F1 paddock live: the racing Sunday in Spielberg in the ticker)