Hamilton says 2017 Mercedes his toughest F1 car
Lewis Hamilton believes that the 2017 Mercedes is “the toughest” Formula 1 car he has had to try and understand in his career.
Hamilton won the championship for a third time in four years in 2017, breaking Michael Schumacher’s pole position record and winning nine races in the process.
However, he was behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for much of the season, driving an inconsistent W08.
The 2017-spec Mercedes F1 was hard on tyres in the early phase of the season as well as retaining some of the weaknesses on low-speed circuits that were present in the preceding Mercedes of the V6 era.
When asked whether he’d a driven a car as difficult to understand as the W08 during his career, Hamilton replied, “This is the toughest one.”
“Some of the issues we’ve had have been with us for years and we are only just realising we need to really do something.
“New car, being on a wider scale magnifies the issue, I think. A different tyre dynamic, it has been the hardest in that respect.
“2008 (was) a difficult one too. 2009 was horrible. This is a great car, but it has been tricky getting it to work.”
The car’s appetite for rear tyres in particular made it difficult to operate, and Hamilton said the drivers were often balancing on a knife’s edge between under and overdriving the car to extract its potential.
“Often to get that extra potential you have to overdrive a little bit, but it’s a fine balance of getting into that region,” Hamilton added.
“This year people have talked about us having the best car, and for sure it’s been good, but there are some fundamental issues with the car that I’m fighting to overcome.
“I feel like in those moments, I’ve been able to extract more than it was willing to do and that’s been positive.”
Hamilton won six of eight races from Silverstone to Austin to take control of the 2017 championship, a phase of the season where team-mate Valtteri Bottas admitted he struggled to drive the car consistently.
Hamilton feels his ability to “squeeze out those extra drops that no one else can get” is “where I feel my value is”.
“Often if you go the wrong (set-up) direction you don’t even get to the car’s potential; the car just won’t allow you to squeeze out the extra bit,” Hamilton explained.
“Understanding the car has really allowed me to get the potential, and a little bit more, so even in the races where we’ve struggled we’ve come out with more than we’d hoped.”