Hamilton: Much harder to find the perfect balance
By Mat Coch
Tuesday 29th June, 2021 - 7:56am
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that it’s more difficult to find the right balance for his car as he battles Max Verstappen for the Formula 1 world championship.
Hamilton currently sits second to Verstappen in the points standings, the Dutchman having won three of the last four races.
Once all-conquering, Mercedes is now in its longest win drought since the current turbo-hybrid formula came into being in 2014.
Hamilton last won at the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, and demonstrably struggled on the streets of Monaco.
A rare mistake in Azerbaijan robbed him of an opportunity to capitalise on Verstappen’s dramatic retirement before he again had no answer to the 23-year-old at the Red Bull Ring last weekend.
“I think the tyres clearly are playing a huge, a huge role, maybe more than ever before,” Hamilton hypothesised when asked why the initiative had shifted between Mercedes and Red Bull during the course of the season thus far.
“There’s an interestingly, very narrow working window.
“Getting the most out of the tyres is always the case each year, getting the most out of them for a single lap, but then also having the balance to be able to go the distance with actual pace is always massively challenging.
“Thermal degradation is a constant issue, it has been for many, many years,” he added.
“We’re getting some places where the aero package is not perfectly great for the tyres, it’s not ideal for maybe a race run, or it might be ideal for the race, but not for a single lap.
“So [I’m] finding that much harder this year to find the perfect balance between the two, but that’s the great challenge that we’re faced with.”
At the Red Bull Ring last weekend, Hamilton found himself playing second fiddle to Verstappen throughout the 71-lap race.
That came a week after Red Bull used strategy to secure victory at the French Grand Prix.
Giving up the race lead as he switched to a two-stop strategy, Verstappen then chased down the one-stopping Hamilton to retake the lead on the penultimate lap.
It was a reversal of fortunes to the play used by Mercedes in Spain, when it caught Red Bull by surprise by switching strategy mid-race.
A late stop in the Styrian Grand Prix saw Hamilton snag the bonus point for fastest lap, leaving him 18 points behind Verstappen in the championship.
The Formula 1 season returns to the Red Bull Ring this weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix, with practice set to begin on Friday from 19:30 AEST.