Hamilton has been in ‘sweet spot’ since 2018

Lewis Hamilton insists he hit a “sweet spot” in form towards the end of 2018 and has not dropped since.

Eight wins from the last 11 races in 2018 for Hamilton turned his title fight with Sebastian Vettel from a fierce battle to a one-horse race.

This season has followed a similar trend with the Brit taking five wins already and enjoying a 29-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship.

The five-time World Champion has credited this to his ability to remain in that “sweet spot”.

“Last year I hit that sweet spot at some point during the season, and started being really, really consistent,” Hamilton told Autosport.

“The races have been really strong, as last year, and I’ve not really dropped the ball in that sense, I’ve not dropped off.

“Last year qualifying at the end of the year was very strong.

“But it’s all to do with lifestyle, health, all those kinds of things, and they have a real impact. Also we’re doing a great job as a team.

“Whether or not we’re quickest on the weekend I’ve still got to do the job and deliver. I’m hoping that the rest of the year continues.

“I’m happy where I am in life, I have my health, and the people around me. That’s all down to lifestyle, and life choices.”

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His incident with Vettel during the Canadian GP of course earned most of the publicity, but Hamilton himself made a rare mistake as he crashed during free practice.

The 34-year-old prides himself on keeping his errors to a minimum, and so was pleased that he bounced back to take the win at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

“I take a lot of pride in my work and particularly my track record of not making mistakes,” he added.

“I’ve managed to get myself in a really good place, and really delivering minimum faults, mistakes on race weekend and races.

“A small hiccup on Friday [in Canada], but I was able to pull it back on Saturday, and then throughout the weekend.”

Hamilton has suggested that Ferrari have power modes available to them which Mercedes can’t match, but this hasn’t prevented the Silver Arrows from taking every race win so far in 2019.

The Brit is proud of the team’s ability to win even when they don’t have the best package, and says his goal at every event is to “extract above and beyond”.

“What I can say is my races have been really, really strong, really consistent, and even weekends where we’ve not had the car to really win, I’ve been able to put it right there with the frontrunners,” he said.

“My goal on a race weekend is obviously to do the best that I can do for the team, but it’s also to really extract above and beyond.”

“If you can be an all-round driver, you work well outside of the car and particularly to pull these things out that others are perhaps not always able to pull together, it makes your value go up.”

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Mercedes can’t match Ferrari power mode

Lewis Hamilton admits that Ferrari have a power mode available which is out of Mercedes’ reach.

Any such modes were put to good use at the Canadian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel took pole for the Scuderia and looked set to end Mercedes’ 100% winning record in 2019 come race day.

However, the German made an error which earned him a five-second penalty after rejoining the track unsafely and forcing Hamilton into evasive action, handing the win to his Mercedes rival.

Similarly to Bahrain, the Silver Arrows got away with one against an SF90 which seems to come into its own on a power-hungry track, and the Brit insists it is this power which his team can’t contend with.

“They were so quick on the straights,” he said via F1i.com. “They definitely have another power mode that we currently don’t have.

“So, all of a sudden they turn up the power and he [Vettel] pulls away massively on the straight, even if I have DRS open.”

As a result, Hamilton sees this as an area of weakness for the W10 which needs working on.

“In the race I know all of a sudden they pick up a lot of pace on the straights [as well] but that’s the name of the game,” he explained.

“They’ve clearly done a great job with their power unit. There used to be a point where Mercedes was ahead in that area by a good chunk.

“We’ve got work to do there. They are ahead of us at the moment there.”

Looking beyond the penalty which allowed him to win in Canada, Hamilton was happy with his performance and how he conducted himself.

“I like to think that I conducted myself in the right manner, and the guys worked so hard collectively and we came out with a good result,” added the Brit.

“We’ve got work to do. We’ve seen how quick the Ferraris were [in Canada], they were right there in the last race [Monaco] as well, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

“They’re quicker than us on the straights, they have another level of engine mode that they can go to, particularly in qualifying and also in the race.

“So we’ve definitely got work to do, but at least we’ve got a good fight.”

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Chandhok calls for an end to finger pointing

Karun Chandhok says the time has come to stop teams communicating with race control as their “incessant badgering” is influencing penalties.

Racing for the victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton closed right up Sebastian Vettel’s rear wing resulting in a mistake from the Ferrari driver.

Vettel ran off the track at Turns 3/4 and rejoined directly in front of Hamilton resulting in the Brit being forced off the track and towards the wall.

Hamilton was immediately on the radio complaining about Vettel’s “dangerous” driving.

Soon after, the stewards announced a five-second time penalty for Vettel that handed Hamilton the win.

Chandhok, a former driver turned commentator, reckons teams should not have the stage to influence the stewards.

He told Sky Sports: “I don’t blame Lewis and Mercedes for complaining to the FIA about Sebastian because that’s part of the game that all the teams play.

“I actually wonder if at these moments, it’s better for the teams not to be able to communicate to race control because their incessant badgering will have an influence.

“If the boot was on the other foot, unquestionably Ferrari would have complained and Mercedes would have defended the case – that’s just the way things are in F1 nowadays which in itself seems wrong, but that’s a whole other subject for another day.”

As for the penalty, the former HRT driver, believes it was “unjustified.”

He expanded: “It’s worth remembering Sebastian was doing over a hundred miles per hour there and not looking at things frame by frame!

“This was not a situation where Seb intentionally came off the brakes and cut the chicane, like we see people do in places like Abu Dhabi. Believe me, no driver ever wants to find themselves on the grass outside Turn Three, with the wall that close!

“When Seb bounced back onto the track, the rear of the car kicked sideways and he had a snap of oversteer. That was not him steering into Lewis’ path or squeezing Lewis into the wall.

“It was simply an instinctive reaction of a driver catching the oversteer caused by the rear of his car bouncing when he re-joined the track.

“You can then see Sebastian put a lot of steering lock on to turn left and straighten the car, thereby giving Lewis space.

“If his intention was to squeeze Lewis, he would not have turned the steering wheel as much. From the moment he got full control of the car, he went straight – not right to squeeze Lewis.

“Therefore to me, this was an incident where a driver simply made an error, bounced back into the path of another car who, yes, had to take avoiding action but that was always a gap that was going to close.”

Chandhok believes Vettel already paid a price for his error as his advantage over Hamilton was greatly reduced.

“Ultimately, my underlying feeling was that a driver was being penalised for making an error which has anyway cost him lap time, and that’s harsh.

“This was quality driving from two great drivers, pushing their cars at a relentless pace for every corner of every lap and one of them made an error.

“That’s human and he should not have been penalised for it.”

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Mercedes ‘cooling change’ aided Hamilton’s pace

Lewis Hamilton’s pace in the second half of the Canadian GP, in which he hunted down Sebastian Vettel, was the result of a “cooling change”, one Mercedes wish they had done earlier.

While Vettel seemed to have the pace in the first half of the Canadian GP, after the pit stops it was all Hamilton.

The Brit pitted two laps after the German with the gap widening to 4.8s.

However, it took only a few laps for Hamilton to bring that right down and sit on Vettel’s rear wing.

We all know what happened next, Vettel ran off the track, was penalised for an unsafe return and Hamilton took the win.

Mercedes, though, reckon the win could have played out on track had they realised a few laps earlier how much the cooling change would help Hamilton.

“We had an issue in the first stint where although he was able to match Sebastian’s lap times, he couldn’t really get close behind because the car was overheating a bit so he had to leave a bit of a gap,” said trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin in Mercedes’ Pure Pitwall video.

“He was having to lift off the throttle to keep it cool.

“When Sebastian came in, we told Lewis to push but actually the tyres were degrading a bit and you can see his last two laps were actually no faster than the ones before that. And that was fundamentally why the ‘overcut’ didn’t work.

“The reason why we kept him out the extra lap was just that if there had been a Safety Car, we would’ve inherited the lead by virtue of the shorter pit stop.

“Now, looking at it again, you can see in the second stint we were a lot quicker and some of this is because we were able to make a cooling change in the pit stop that suddenly meant Lewis could really push the car harder and we were able to push up behind Sebastian.

“If we’d known that we had that pace difference, we would definitely [have] had a go at the undercut.

“We’d have stopped him one lap earlier and it would’ve been close, but maybe it would’ve worked.

“But, even if it didn’t work, Lewis would’ve been on hot tyres as Sebastian joined the track on cold tyres and we could’ve maybe had a go at overtaking on the lap.

“So, of course what we did didn’t work. We would do something differently next time.”

“But that meant we were struggling a bit in traffic. We hadn’t intended to be so far down the grid.”

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Merc explain Hamilton’s hydraulic drama

Mercedes were “pretty tight” on time in getting Lewis Hamilton’s W10 rebuilt after discovering a hydraulic leak in the wake of qualifying.

With three hours to go before the start of the Canadian Grand Prix news broke that Hamilton’s W10 was in pieces in the Mercedes garage due to a hydraulic leak.

Although the team had been aware of the problem after qualifying, they were not able to do anything until the Sunday due to parc ferme regulations.

As such the team faced a mad dash to find the problem, fix it and then put the car back together.

“We had some issues with Lewis’s car before the race and this actually became apparent after qualifying,” trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says in the latest Pure Pitwall video.

“We dropped the floor and noticed there was some oil on the floor, so somewhere there was a leak. We could also see on the data we were losing some hydraulic pressure.

“The issue is that the cars are then in parc ferme overnight so we are not allowed to touch them or to investigate further. So, that investigation moved to Sunday morning, when we are allowed to access the cars again, and the mechanics can work on them.

“We had to take the power unit out and as a result we traced the leak to the throttle actuator. We then made a request to the FIA to change the throttle actuator and some of the associated hydraulics.

“So, that was quite a big job though, there’s a lot to do within that. And it was pretty tight to get Lewis’s car back together for the start of the race.

“While we are fairly happy we can do the work in that time, the issue when you have an unknown fault or a leak is you don’t know how long it is going to take you to find it, to identify it. We were able to get the car back together.”

The next test, which took place minutes before the cars had to head to the pit lane, was firing up the engine.

It worked and Hamilton left the pits to join the grid. He won the race.

Shovlin added: “Where we were at risk was if we then fired up and we found another problem, if the engine had to come out again, that’s when we would have got short on time and perhaps not even been able to start the race.

“But, it was a great job by all the mechanics involved and happily the car was back together in time and finished the race successfully.”

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