Formula 1: Hamilton must 'thread' warily
Published 16/04/2011 | 05:00
Lewis Hamilton has been warned that he must make his tyres last for a full race weekend if he is to avoid a repeat of last Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Last week, had to make an unscheduled fourth stop towards the end of the race which relegated him from second to seventh place. A post-race penalty for 'weaving' eventually left the Briton eighth and out of the serious points.
Speaking ahead of this morning's qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix, McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe made it clear that Hamilton was to blame for his own downfall by being too aggressive with his tyres during Saturday's qualifying session in Sepang.
The 2008 world champion, who has a famously aggressive style, 'flat-spotted' a set of soft tyres -- locking them under braking and wearing down a patch of rubber -- which he was then not able to use in the race. Instead Hamilton had to use another set of hard tyres, which he was unable to make last until the end of the race.
Asked about the new fast-degrading Pirelli tyres, which have turned races into far more of a technical battle than we have seen in recent years, Lowe said: "It is really exciting as we have got a formula now where it seems to be panning out that the tyre wear is very, very critical.
"You have got to manage the tyres across qualifying and the race. How you use those tyres in qualifying has a big consequence on your race result, which we saw to Lewis' cost in Malaysia. Crucial phases of the race where he lost out were a consequence of tyre consumption that he had done in qualifying."
The implied criticism of Hamilton is significant in that it is an aspect of his race craft which he has worked hard to improve. The 26-year-old admits that he used to wear his tyres out too fast at hotter, high-wearing tracks such as Istanbul Park in Turkey.
Last year, when the famously smooth Jenson Button was signed by McLaren to be his team-mate, Hamilton claimed those days were behind him and that he was now as good as anyone at making his tyres last. Yet Lowe clearly felt Hamilton needed another reminder.
In an honest appraisal of the year thus far, Lowe admitted that McLaren's pre-season ambitions had "exceeded our ability to deliver;" that his technical team had been too innovative with the design of the MP4-26.
But an 11th hour overhaul of the car's entire floor and exhaust system has seen the Woking team emerge as the leading challenger for Red Bull. And while world champion Sebastian Vettel has won the first two grands prix at a canter, and topped both yesterday's practice sessions, Lowe insisted they were not miles ahead.
"I certainly don't think Red Bull are cruising," he said. "I think they're feeling the pressure. We saw that in qualifying, in particular, in Malaysia."
Sauber have asked the FIA to look in to the accident last week in which a piece of debris penetrated the cockpit of their Mexican rookie, Sergio Perez. Perez was fortunate to escape unhurt after the unidentified object pierced the chassis and was only halted by the Electronic Control Unit box, which took the brunt of the impact. (© Daily Telegraph, London)