Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to a competitive weekend in Monaco, but says that the team still needs to find qualifying pace with which to take the fight to Red Bull – a team he is convinced have found a “trick” for final qualifying
He’s also answered critics who suggest that he is harder on his tyres than other drivers, and suffers as a consequence.
This blog asked Lewis if he thought the combination of supersoft tyres, high downforce spec and higher ride heights might upset the status quo this weekend.
“I honestly have no absolutely no clue!,” he replied. “I’ve not really thought about that aspect of it. I just think that because it’s a track where there are not so many high speed corners that the downforce advantage they have on us won’t give us as big a gap as they had in the last race, where it was almost a second in qualifying.
“Here it will be a little bit less, and the driver can also have an impact on making it a little bit less as well. It’s a lot more to do with mechanical grip as well. I’d just like to get out tomorrow.”
Expanding on quest for qualifying speed, he said: “We need to find it as a team. It’s the downforce, pure downforce, and it’s not for me to go and find it, the guys in the team need to go and find it, and that’s what they’re working on very hard to do. It’s not easy to find.
“They’ve [Red Bull] got a lot more downforce than us in certain areas of the track, which gives them a big, big advantage. Nine tenths is huge, and there’s no more that I can get out of it, or we can get out of it through set-up.
“It’s a difficult to explain. I don’t think there’s anything wrong [us in] with Q3. They are obviously doing something that enables them to do that time, because in Q1 and Q2 we’re a lot closer than in Q3. Clearly there’s some kind of trick or something going on. I think bit by bit we’ll figure it out. It’s for the guys will figure it out, and I’ve just got to keep going and try do the job that I did at the last race. It was a solid qualifying session for me.
“I know I’m going to be strong in the race, I know how to look after my tyres. What people often write is that I’m very aggressive with my tyres, and it’s actually quite the opposite. When Bridgestone come to us afterwards and they tell us how we’re doing, I’m usually kind of mid way or one of the better guys or softest guys on my tyres. I know how to look after my tyres and look after the wear of the rears and the fronts. That’s probably why I am also able to keep the pace that I do in the races.”
Tyres will be one of the more intriguing aspects of this weekend. Last year those who started on supersofts – specifically Sebastian Vettel – were soon on trouble. This year the top 10 have to start on the tyres on which they qualified, so that could make life interesting on Sunday. In theory everyone will have to use the supersoft to get a lap time, and that may compromise their race form relative to those who choose mediums.
“I don’t know how the supersoft is going to be here, to be honest. Obviously in the past it’s always chewed up quickly, but during the weekend the track gets better actually.
“From a guess, depending on how big a gap there is between the two tyres, it might not be such a bad thing to start on the medium. Because by the end of the race the track is better already, so if you put on the supersoft, it will last. After tomorrow you’ll get a much better idea if there’s half a second difference.”
Intriguingly Hamilton beat Mark Webber to fastest lap in Spain, and by a substantial margin: “I think I’ve only had like three fastest laps in my career up until that point, so it’s nice to get a fourth! I’ve got more wins and poles than fastest laps, which means absolutely nothing…”