It was a case of good and bad news for Lewis Hamilton here yesterday. On the one hand he was quicker than team-mate Nico Rosberg, who is currently 29 points ahead of him in their world championship fight. On the other, his Mercedes cut out and rolled to a halt soon after he had achieved that.
But though team boss Toto Wolff suggested the problem could be minimised because Hamilton would be able to view Rosberg’s data overnight, the 2008 British GP winner suggested otherwise since their different driving styles render such comparisons of marginal benefit.
“The long run data doesn’t really help in the sense that we drive differently,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t help you in the sense of understanding how the tyres are lasting, and whether you need to put the car into more understeer or oversteer, whether you need to move the brake balance, which corners you want to lift and coast. All those different things you need to practice. It makes it really hard. But I’ll be okay.”
Rosberg’s car has largely been free of problems and he has finished all eight races, winning three and finishing second in the others, but when trouble has struck Mercedes it has largely been with Hamilton’s. “I don’t know why things happen to my car so much,” he said. “Of course we’ll fix it, but I really needed a long run because now I don’t know what the car is going to feel like for the race.”
Wolff suggested Hamilton’s programme in the final practice this morning will be changed to enable him to do some long runs for his race preparation, but inevitably that will take time away from honing his qualifying plans.
Traditionally, team-mates have tried to keep some of their secrets to themselves, and though Mercedes have tried to maintain an open policy where each man can view the other’s data, both Rosberg and Hamilton still try to keep something to themselves to deploy in the heat of battle.
In any true sport, that’s how it should be, and many fans are finding that the endless information relayed to each driver regarding points on the track where he might make up ground on his team-mate is beginning to detract from their contest rather than enhancing it. When Jim Clark and Graham Hill battled for British Grand Prix supremacy at Lotus, or Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams, they had to figure it all out for themselves and act accordingly.
It was a bittersweet day for Jenson Button, too. His McLaren was seventh but as he finished ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen he noted that the relatively high wind exacerbated a lack of downforce. “We’re struggling with understeer, trying to get more front-end from the car,” he said. “It’s tough out there because it’s so windy: this year’s cars have less downforce than before, which makes the wings very important. When they’re affected massively by the wind, it makes it difficult to get any productive back-to-back results.”