Lewis Hamilton thinks that Formula 1 as a sport, and his Mercedes team, ‘need to do better’ to improve or eliminate the porpoising and bouncing that befalls the current generation of F1 cars.
Hamilton took only his second podium of the season in the Canadian GP – a weekend in which his Mercedes team started off on the backfoot but found performance come race day. It followed a dreadful weekend in Azerbaijan which admittedly yielded better than expected results, but those that were largely handed to them by Ferrari’s double DNF.
In Baku, Hamilton suffered from a huge amount of bouncing and bottoming out on the long street circuit straights which left him visibly in pain when extricating himself from his car. He was seen clutching his back in the post-race media commitments too and spoke of unrelenting pain that resulted in multiple physical therapy sessions in the days which followed.
Over the course of the season the seven-time champion has struggled to match his less-experienced teammate George Russell – who holds the impressive record of finishing in the top five in every Grand Prix so far this season.
The weekend in Montreal kicked off with Mercedes appearing to be off-the-pace as they had been in Monaco and Azerbaijan – after their first promising porpoiseless weekend in Spain a few weeks prior. Hamilton seemed the most dejected he’d been all season in Friday evening interviews, but now explains that his car had been fitted with a “different avenue” of a setup compared to Russell’s.
The team’s form improved come Saturday when the heavens opened and lap times increased in length. Many expected them to fall back, or at least plateau, from their P5 and P7 starting positions on the dry race day, but the W13 had pace and helped earn the team a P3 and P4 finish.
“I wasn’t really lost,” said Hamilton. “It’s just we tried two different avenues and the avenue I was down was dreadful. So, we collated all the data we had and we made drastic changes to the set-up and it was much, much, much nicer [on Sunday] – more in line with what we anticipated and it was good.
“When you get a full race distance in, you find a lot of things out about the car and the relationship you have with the car and data, etc. So, there’s a lot to take from today. One really great thing is we’ve got really good reliability, which I think is a real tribute to all the great work all the team are doing at both factories.
“We just got to keep our heads down, keep working and hopefully I know where I’m losing to these guys, so that’s where I’m going to go and try and focus on attacking, to improve,” summed up Hamilton.
He clarified further what exactly the car felt like on Friday, when the team were at their arguably lowest ebb of the entire season – the team reportedly visibly down in the garage after FP1 and FP2.
“The balance I had on Friday was neutral, super positive, so no rear end,” Hamilton explained. “And as soon as you apply one degree of turning, the rear end comes around. So, I was just fighting that constantly and it was very difficult to keep it out the wall. That’s why I didn’t finish my long run, because it was just undriveable in the set-up window that we tried.
“It was just an experiment to see whether the car would work there – it didn’t. So, then we made the changes, and today was a much more… a much, much better balance in terms of I had a little, nice amount of understeer, better traction, not having those snaps. So, it was night and day difference. We still have bouncing, that’s not going away,” summed up Hamilton.
The car appeared to begin bouncing once again on the Saturday when a dry line formed in the latter stages of qualifying and the lap times decreased again. On race day however, the W13 exhibited no signs of aerodynamically-induced porpoising, and a lesser amount of mechanical bouncing, although Hamilton still feels the team and the sport need to continue to push for change on safety grounds.
“[The bouncing was] much better than Baku this weekend, with the suspension that we chose,” said Hamilton. “There were no words for how hard it was [in Baku]. But this weekend, we managed to… we did have bouncing but it was nowhere near… the last race [at] 10G’s. This one maybe was to two or three or something like that, you know, so it’s livable. But we still, I think, as a sport need to do better and I think us as a team also need to do better.”
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff is simply glad to see Hamilton in better form and in a positive mindset after witnessing the British driver’s despondency earlier in the weekend. “There were a lot of races that worked against him [this season] where he could have scored a podium or a much better result and it was not his wrongdoing, but similarly bad luck,” he said. “Seeing him now on the positive side and being on the podium without anything, in a way, gifted, that’s good to see.”
Here’s Kevin Magnussen on contact with Lewis Hamilton