In case you nonetheless want proof that Lewis Hamilton can lay declare to Method One GOAT standing, look no additional than his efficiency on the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Strip away the truth that it was his report 92nd win — that is merely a quantity that can proceed to go up so long as he races in F1 — and as an alternative give attention to how he caught, handed and prolonged a 25-second lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. In troublesome and changeable circumstances, Hamilton merely crushed Bottas and showcased the expertise that has seen him surpass Michael Schumacher’s report of 91 wins.
Comparable, and in lots of circumstances extra spectacular, performances could be discovered dotted by means of Hamilton’s 14-year profession, however Sunday’s win was completely timed for instance the expertise that’s now making historical past on a weekly foundation.
What made the win so particular?
First off, let’s cope with the seemingly unshakable counter argument that he is solely successful as a result of he is in the very best automotive. Whereas it is true that the Mercedes is the category of the sector, we nonetheless have a helpful barometer of Hamilton’s performances in Bottas.
It is honest to say Bottas just isn’t a candidate in F1’s GOAT debate, however he’s nonetheless a really competent and gifted driver. He constantly qualifies inside just a few tenths of Hamilton — and now and again forward of him — however over the course of a season he has been comprehensively outperformed by his teammate for 4 years operating. Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix was an ideal instance as to why.
On lap 19 Bottas was main the race. He was operating the identical technique as Hamilton and had the identical automotive with a really related setup at his disposal. But when the flag fell 47 laps later, he was a 3rd of a lap — or one mile — behind Hamilton.
That hole, and the way it happened, tells you all you have to know in regards to the distinction between an ideal driver and a great one.
The distinction between Hamilton and Bottas
Whereas it could not make for essentially the most thrilling narrative, the hole between the 2 was all about tyre temperature. Solely by understanding what was occurring with the tyres are you able to achieve a full appreciation for Hamilton’s efficiency, so keep it up.
From a tyre perspective Portimao was an anomaly. Often drivers are combating a relentless battle to maintain their tyres from overheating, however on the Portuguese Grand Prix, a clean monitor floor and a comparatively low monitor temperature, meant the important thing to success was producing tyre temperature.
“We spend 90 p.c of races the place we even have an excessive amount of of tyre temperature and you are attempting to maintain the tyres cool, however we have been within the reverse scenario right here in these chilly circumstances, which was made worse by a bit of sunshine rain,” Mercedes’ chief trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin defined. “In case you can create tyre temperature your grip goes up.
“For the primary few laps at the beginning, you possibly can see that we have been battling the warm-up and in that stage you do not know if it’s all going to return to us once we stand up and operating.
“In case you regarded on the tyre temperatures, they only weren’t constructing and the chance is you get trapped on this area the place you possibly can’t generate the grip to generate the temperature to generate extra grip.”
On the face of it, such a state of affairs ought to have performed to Bottas’ strengths. The Finn’s pure driving fashion generates extra warmth within the tyres, which is a part of the rationale he’s usually so aggressive at circuits like Russia and Baku, the place the monitor floor is clean and the temperatures low.
It was no shock, due to this fact, that he had a greater opening lap and handed Hamilton with ease at Flip 8.
“Valtteri appeared to get that going a bit faster and with Lewis it took a bit longer,” Shovlin added. “Nevertheless it’s additionally a stability of how a lot danger do you soak up these troublesome circumstances and I feel Lewis was being a bit cautious.”
It is testomony to Hamilton’s supreme self-confidence that he let the race come to him. Even his move on Carlos Sainz, who had managed to generate severe temperature within the comfortable tyres on his McLaren at the beginning of the race and take an early lead, was a low-risk affair utilizing DRS on the pit straight.
However all through these early laps, Hamilton was utilizing his innate capacity to know what the tyres wanted and the way finest to extract efficiency from them. Mercedes’ information confirmed that Bottas was hammering round producing entrance tyre temperature, however Hamilton was adapting his driving fashion to shift extra workload to the rears and achieve extra a extra balanced temperature throughout the 4 tyres.
He did so with none prompting from the pit wall, utilizing his personal initiative to be taught the automotive’s weaknesses and tailor his driving fashion round them. After choosing up his winner’s trophy, he mentioned he wasn’t positive how a lot info he ought to reveal within the post-race press convention, however in the long run could not assist offering an perception.
“In the end it is no secret, I feel in the present day was about tyre temperature,” he mentioned after the race. “I felt by means of the race that I used to be studying, lap on lap, extra in regards to the circuit.
“I used to be making an attempt a number of completely different traces and discovering new traces that labored properly. The wind path was very, very difficult in the present day — a number of crosswinds, headwinds and tailwinds — and there have been some positions that you possibly can utilise to your favour and others that kind-of get in the best way.
“I feel the secret’s the occasions when you’ve gotten a tailwind, it is minimising the loss by means of these phases”
On laps 16, 17 and 18, Hamilton put his learnings from the opening laps into motion and set a succession of quickest laps. The hole to his teammate shrank from 2.3s to 0.4s as Bottas clearly struggled for rear finish grip, and by the point Hamilton began lap 20 the overtake was already a formality.
“Immediately was a type of days the place you noticed Lewis at his finest,” Shovline added. “And it was the newer model of Lewis the place he was calm dropping locations at the beginning, did not take any dangers and acknowledges that he was a bit cautious in these circumstances, however knew it could all come again to him.
“He clearly had tempo in hand behind Valtteri, who comparatively early on in that stint thought the automotive was fairly inconsistent. As Valtteri began to wrestle with the tyres a bit of, Lewis was all of the sudden simply behind him, and as Valtteri struggled with the stability, Lewis was in a position to make that move.”
On the face of it the overtake regarded simple, nevertheless it was the tip results of a weekend of laborious work. As early as Friday apply, Hamilton had recognised the problems that may emerge within the race and labored together with his engineers to discover a answer with the automotive set-up.
“Set-up was one thing that I actually focussed on,” he added after the race. “It was much less about qualifying set-up, and extra for the race set-up and I feel in the present day that enabled me to go one higher, I suppose, than earlier than.
“I simply felt like I used to be typically getting quicker and quicker all through the race — however I needed to sustain the tempo for these tyres. That was actually the important thing.”
Shovlin presents a bit of extra perception into Hamilton’s set-up selections.
“He is speaking about how he acquired the stability of the automotive to not use the tyres too laborious on both finish,” he added. “Qualifying was extra about heat up, getting the temperature there and within the race, the left tyres actually get a hammering right here, and it was about not working the entrance or the rear an excessive amount of as a result of then the stability begins to get away from you.
“Lewis is of course good at managing the tyres and his this actually good really feel for the place he’s hurting them and the right way to hold the rubber on them.
“After the overtake, he simply managed the race and his tempo was unimaginable at occasions — simply how a lot he had in hand. It was positively one in all his races the place it was becoming to go to the highest of the all-time winner’s chart with a efficiency like that.
“It was simply spectacular how calm he stayed below what have been actually difficult circumstances.”
Hammering dwelling his benefit
Hamilton wasn’t alone in benefitting from getting the tyres as much as temperature. It was clear from the opening lap that the 2 McLarens, which ran first and third at one level, and Kimi Raikkonen, who jumped from sixteenth to sixth, additionally managed to hit the sweetspot.
However there have been only a few examples — maybe Charles Leclerc within the Ferrari and Pierre Gasly within the AlphaTauri — of drivers who have been in a position to grasp the tyres over a race distance.
Hamilton’s pit cease on lap 40 was truly sooner than deliberate on account of Bottas struggling vibrations from his tyres. Vibrations are sometimes a warning signal of an imminent tyre failure, so Mercedes took no possibilities by pitting each its drivers.
At that time of the race Hamilton held a cushty 9 second lead over Bottas, and regardless that it was Bottas who was struggling essentially the most, Mercedes caught to its normal process of pitting the lead automotive first. Bottas pitted a lap afterward lap 41 however emerged in visitors, worsening his scenario as Hamilton continued to up his tempo.
“[The gap between the two drivers] was most evident on that onerous tyre transition, Lewis managed to get it to work fairly properly, fairly shortly, however Valtteri dropped into some backmarker visitors, which meant he needed to run at their tempo and never the pure tempo,” Shovlin mentioned. “At that time there was about ten levels Celsius distinction in tyre temperature and you possibly can see that it was manifesting itself in, close to sufficient, a second in lap time.
“The secret’s all in of that efficiency hole was temperature distinction and it is why you all of the sudden discovered at phases within the race there was fairly an enormous hole between the 2 automobiles. However when it comes to race time, throughout that interval on the laborious tyre Valtteri misplaced various race time there by not having the ability to carve by means of as shortly as if he had heat tyres.”
Bottas requested for comfortable tyres reasonably than the hards for his ultimate stint, however with 25 laps to go all the information was indicating he would have struggled in direction of the tip of the race.
“We’ve accomplished it on different events, however it’s all the time a troublesome scenario,” Wolff mentioned of Bottas adopting a unique technique. “In case you ask the lead driver to place the hards on since you suppose it is the proper selection however the second driver tries to persuade you in regards to the different factor, it is rather troublesome to clarify when you principally reverse the order. So we do not wish to intervene an excessive amount of, and whereas there will probably be occasions once we enable these calls, we have been fairly satisfied the laborious was the higher tyre.
“All the information we’ve seen from different automobiles on the market confirmed the laborious outperformed the medium and the comfortable. And whenever you take a look at Esteban [Ocon] and Checo [Perez] on the market on the finish on the softs, it did not operate in any respect and was truly the weakest tyre on the finish of the race. So we have been fairly strong in our choice as a result of we knew or anticipated it to be the higher tyre.”
Every little thing about Hamilton’s race was superior to Bottas’ and it was no coincidence that he ended up coping with the change of tyres and evolution of the race extra efficiently than his teammate.
It tells you an terrible lot in regards to the expertise he has in reserve and his capacity to adapt to any given scenario on monitor. That is what makes him one of many — if not the — biggest F1 driver of all time and it is a key motive why he has gained extra grands prix than every other driver.
“While you take a look at the names on that all-time winners checklist, we won’t imagine that we’ve been a part of it, as a staff, getting him to the highest,” Shovlin added. “His achievement is simply phenomenal and he does not present any indicators of giving up or slowing down both, so I think he’ll go on and hit some extra milestones.
“It is only a phenomenal achievement and the best way that he works; he is simply pushed to win and pushed to enhance. He improves by placing a whole lot of hours in exterior the automotive and tries to be taught all the things from each troublesome day that he ever has.
“While you see how he works, it’s virtually not stunning that he is achieved it. It is a phenomenal variety of races.”