Hamilton: Mercedes debut ‘way better than expected’

2013 Australian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said he was “really happy” with his first race for Mercedes.

“I think it’s way better than we probably ever expected for the first race of the season,” he said after finishing fifth in the Australian Grand Prix. “It’s a good place to start.”

“We’re going to have to go back and figure out why we were losing time to other people but I think the guys have done a fantastic job for us to have the pace that we did.

“The car was feeling really good so I don’t know how the other guys were pulling away so quickly. But we’ll keep pushing and hopefully we’ll get there.”

Hamilton added he was encouraged by how long he was able to run on the super-soft tyres at the start of the race: “I had a really good first stint, I went as long as anyone else, if not longer.”

“I just don’t know where we lost so much ground, I have to go back and review.”

2013 Australian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    51 comments on “Hamilton: Mercedes debut ‘way better than expected’”

    1. There’s a long way to go, but I have no doubt that he’s probably feeling extremely happy about jumping ship from McLaren to Mercedes after this weekend.

      1. Especially since Mclaren have sunk into the midfield mediocrity

        1. I don’t think this weekend was going to affect how LH feels about his move to Merc from Mac, no matter the result. His decision was made last year so whatever happens this year in terms of each team’s performance, happens. It is what it is. He will be wasting energy and will be showing lack of focus if he is still debating to himself whether he should have made the move or not. The move was about far more than just the pace of Mac vs. Merc in one race.

          I think he will be concerned about his inability to keep up to the leaders. He will be concerned about their lack of ability to do what Lotus did in terms of the pit strategy and tires. But I don’t think he will be surprised, as nobody, including Merc themselves, was saying they were going to fight for the WDC this year. It’s a year to find progress, and I think they should be happy with a strong 4th in the WCC come the end of the year. I don’t expect Mac to remain where they appear to be after race 1. I would bet more money on Mac strengthening throughtout the year moreso than Merc. I doubt Red Bull will remain where they appeared after race one either. So with Lotus, Ferrari, and Red Bull showing greater strength so far, and with Mac likely improving, I think the best Merc can hope for is to be a strong 4th, and to be knocking on the door of podiums often.

          Good on LH to have outshone NR out of the box, but perhaps we’re seeing both drivers limited by the car and tires. Should be interesting to see them at a hot venue and one that doesn’t vary so much in conditions throughout the weekend.

          1. Just wanted to add, if they weren’t expecting to do as well as LH did, then that tells me they are definitely still on a building and developing pattern, and will be expecting to progress over last year, but aren’t exactly looking to win the WDC this year. Perhaps they will win a race though in the same way NR won one last year. But they won’t be consistantly fighting for podiums, just knocking on the door, as I see it.

            1. That’s pretty much exactly what everyone from Merc has been saying in interviews all winter.

    2. HelloTraverse
      17th March 2013, 10:08

      He who laughs last…

      1. … then again, he who laughs first understands the immediate irony.

        1. Haha, yes!

    3. Considering they were suddenly dropping off in pace, Mercedes were lucky to finish 5th. I still believe their race pace performance is sub par.

      1. … Sub Par from the Podium in this race, obviously. Definatly not sub-par from the usual positions Merc has occupied.

        Its still really early, but the Merc has improved while the Mac has degenerated. I predict LH will have some wins this year, way more than years past for Merc, and will be fighting for podiums.

        Im actually happy as this season seems to be something of a shake up. Mac is down, Ferrari is up, Lotus seems WAY up as does Force India, and RBR is no longer Dominant.

        I predict another tight year for the WC titles with lots of mixed up podiums…

    4. I think he wanted to sound positive in front of the cameras, and he may be satisfied with the fact that the team seem reasonably at the front, but I suspect his foremost emotion was disappointment with going backwards through the race, especially when after the first stint, it really looked like he could challenge for the victory instead of finishing a very distant fifth.

      I hope Keith puts up the fastest laps article again later, as I like to review lap times to see how everyone’s race went, but it baffled me during the race that he seemed unable to get any sort of pace and consistency out of the medium tyres, when the end of the first stint (on tyres that had already seen two qualifying laps) was so strong. His final stint looked Ok, but even then his tyres seem to go off in the final two laps.

      1. @adrianmorse Yes and I also think that he felt from qualifying that they were even better than where they ended, it’s the going back thing on the overall picture.

      2. after qualifying he was in a better position then mercedes should have been because of changing conditions. he hardly ever races as good as he qualifies. if webber hadnt had the bad start and sutil went for a more conventional tyre strategy, he would have been 7th. the mercedes will be quick at certain cirtuits, probably sepang next week, and barcelona where they tested good. interesting for me was mercedes ran a long first stint – meaning they were good on tyres in that part of the race, but then couldnt make the mediums work for a 2 stop, which lotus did. still the pace for hamilton at the start was not as good as redbull, ferrari or lotus – or during any other part of the race really.

    5. I’m baffled as well, I thought that the tyres were pretty easy to understand because of the new warm up characteristics but it appears I was very wrong, different cars seemed to have different gaps between the options and primes, compromising set-up to make the cars use both compounds was not that evident last season, early days nonetheless.

    6. At this point drivers became highly paid nurses. Hamilton unfortunately is more of a racer.

      1. @tmf42 All through F1’s history, and more so the further you go back, nursing the car has been a big part of the sport. Not only is it not new, but the only way to avoid having teams try to protect their tyres is by having a perfectly flat degradation curve, as in, tyres that don’t ever get faster or slower. And then you’d need to apply that to all parts of the car as well.

        1. @mike all true – but it became too important in the last 2 years. Now it was only 1 race and I might be wrong but it already looks like a repeat of 2012, where the first half was more of a lottery and had little to do with racing. The operating window seems to be too narrow, which gives teams outside the window a disadvantage of almost 2 seconds per lap and even faster degradation.
          I understand why they wanna see more pitstops, but personally I enjoy races like last year’s Austin GP more. Watching the guys push for the entire distance is way more fun than contemplating how and when they ought to stop for tires to gain positions.

          1. A lottery in that the top 6 places in the race were filed by 6 of the top 7 qualifiers minus Nico Rosberg who retired?
            I agree. Totally random.

      2. vuelve kowalsky
        17th March 2013, 14:49

        agree, but this tyres don’t allowe him to drive the nuts off the wheels, the way he can. It’s a shame but it’s the way f1 it’s going. Look out for him at barcelona, because it can be his first win with the silver arrow.

    7. I think Lewis’ race was hampered by going for a 2 stop race, he lost a lot of time by staying out longer than anyone else on the options (and may have been closer to the front when the others pitted if he wasn’t saving his tyres so much). He then didn’t quite have the pace or consistency to make a 2 stopper work, but it’s a positive start, and I think he would have been much more in the mix had he gone for 3 stop from the outset with the rest of them.

      Overall then, I think Hamilton will be very happy with his first race weekend at Merc, already staking a claim for the number 1 driver slot.

      1. @jleigh,

        I think Lewis’ race was hampered by going for a 2 stop race

        I don’t think so. He was setting some pretty competitive lap times when the others pitted, right up to his first pit stop. When Alonso was on his tail and he asked whether Fernando was on a three-stopper, it already didn’t matter anymore. Alonso was on his gearbox with better tyres, so the fact that he had stopped once didn’t matter anymore. The real problem was that he lost so much time on his medium tyres that were only 7 laps older.

        With regard to his slow pace at the start of the Grand Prix, I doubt that was purely about tyre saving, otherwise he would have been able to keep Raikkonen behind, I feel. It’s more likely he didn’t get any performance out of his tyres at that point, but that later they came back to him. It’s the first time I’ve seen Pirelli tyres come back, but it also seemed to happen to Sutil: a couple of laps into his final stint his laptimes were terrible, but near the end of the race he could set slightly better lap times again.

        1. @adrianmorse

          Having committed to two stops, and adjusted our pace accordingly to preserve the tyres, the decision to convert to a three-stop strategy compromised Lewis relative to those cars who had gone for three from the start.

          -Ross Brawn.

          This is basically what I was saying, they adjusted their pace throughout the first 3 stints in order to try and do a 2 stopper, which exaggerates the gap between Hamilton and the rest.

          But yes you are right, Brawn also said that they didn’t have the same balance on the mediums as they had on the super softs. This might have something to do with the fact hey didn’t really get heavy fuel runs in at the end of FP2

          1. I agree @jleigh, I just had a look at the lap charts, and trying to overlay hamilton’s graoh with kimi’s, alonso’s and vettel’s revealed very similar pace throughout their stints. Seeing all 4 on the same strategy could lead to some amazingly close racing

    8. There’s a long way to go and I doubt the trend of the Mercs will change this season as in previous years, meaning that they always go downhill over the course of the season in terms of development rate compared to the other big teams. Don’t forget the personnel there are still from the Brawn era.

      1. @zodman …have you not seen the tons of staff they hired all through last year and start of this year? Are you also not aware that they have a team fully set up right now, working on the 2014 car (same with Ferrari) while the other team is 2013 car. So this means two things, one it isn’t the Brawn era guys, some are still there but there are many other faces brand new to the Merc GP. Secondly, due to the split team, they can fully devot their time on the 2013 car because they wont need to work on the 2014 car that may very well be built soon after this season is over.

      2. Since 2009, the trend has been to go backwards during the season. in 2009 they were lucky that Honda built such an amazing car, but they were caught up at the end. in the last 3 years they have had a good car at the start of the year then went backwards, the next race should suit their car, and a podium is possible, but i dont think they will be top 4 by years end. hamilton will qualify the car high up the grid though which will give better results then last year.

    9. For those that understand these things, the battle between Lewis and McLaren is not over yet. The latter was hoping the former would mess up and that their own drivers would at kleast perform better. You read about Sergio praising Merc’s Nico, this gives away a hint about the sentiment at McLaren and what they talk about most. Their position is that if they cannot defeat Lewis on the tracks then sow discord in his team so as to sour his relationship to Nico. Fortunately Nico is honest and he will give credit to Lewis where credit is due and he will fight to be better. This will improve overall Merc performance. Mercedes actually counted on this. Today Lewis did better than Jenson (400%) and better than Sergio (mucho percento). There is an indication that Merc will perform better than a regrouping McLaren in 2013. Dennis did not wish Lewis all the best in his races and the news that Lewis would have preferred not to race for a year rather than return to McLaren will sting someone there, even though I’m not yet quite sure who. Sergio hopes to be a better fit in the McLaren team than Lewis but quickly he is starting to realise this is a tall order. He knows today he might have done better than Jenson if it wern’t for the bad McLaren Tyre call. He will be playing McCartneys “My Brave Face” on his iPod on the plane. Martin and Jenson (and Jenson’s dad too) hoped McLaren would be better than Lewis. This did not happen. Each time the look at the standings this week they will see Jenson with a paltry 2 points and Lewis into double digits. That hurts. If I were Lewis I would lay low and concentrate on my racing at Mercedes – the rest will take care of itself. Sooner or later the McLaren team will turn on each other to expend all the vats of vitriol they had reserved for you. There is a promise of very, very big things regarding your partnership with Mercedes. Already his star is shining brightly. A reporter mentioned that Lewis moves the needle as fare as the popularity of the sport is concerned and he will continue to do so.

      1. lol. I’m with you in every bit of your words. We may’ve got to see how the final tally will mete out by end of this season but I’m quite sure that as a team without HAM, and politically brilliant BUT at the helm, McLaren will drift away down the field.
        Reading recent interviews from Ecclestone and BUT’s reaction on HAM’s comments, kinda rumors reeked out last years sometimes colored as conspiracy and ergo mauled seems to a certain degree turn out the case there.

      2. Sometimes you just have to facepalm. Seriously dude? Yeah am sure Mac want to be beating Merc and Lewis and everyone else and Lewis wants the same for himself, it’s only natural since they are competing but this crazy stuff about supposedly putting Sergio to talk about Nico to divide teammates at Merc are a little too much. Get back to earth a little would you?

    10. I am hanging about here waiting for the Hamilton boo-boys, the “he won’t amount to much without McLaren” jeering squad.
      Now we see who was making the other look good. No sooner had qualifying started than we heard “I haven’t got any rear grip!” from… – well, not from Hamilton.
      Mercedes will get very good very fast.

      1. “We’re going to have to go back and figure out why we were losing time to other people ”

        Definitely Lewis, they’ve been trying to figure that one out for 3 years now. Nonetheless as someone who had doubts over your move to Mercedes I offer my congratulations and admiration on a great first drive for your new team.

        Shame Mercedes had to resort to raping Mclaren. Looks like they only wanted to stop Paddy Lowe from developing the Mclaren and he’ll probably end up on gardening leave at Mercedes when he finally gets there if recent news and quotes from Wolf are anything to go by.

        1. So McLaren have never head hunted? Unfortunately for them the ‘Hamilton effect’ was there for everyone to see, Mercedes and Rosberg stimulated into producing better performances, McLaren and Button/Perez drifting into bland anonymity. Mercedes should now have a clear idea of the impact they can achieve with their two drivers if the develop this or next year’s car sufficiently, not only in terms of success but also team image, with two fast and competitive drivers (Lotus could also be going the same way). The future looks with them. As a fan of drivers more than teams, it always pleases me to see the ‘just another driver’ or ‘anyone can drive our cars’ attitude of someone like Dennis or Williams proved wrong.

          1. Agreed 100%.

          2. “So McLaren have never head hunted?”

            Not being an historian of F1 nor Mclaren I couldn’t say, but what I have seen of late is talent that Mclaren developed being poached by other ‘richer’ teams.

            Ferrari Red Bull and now Mercedes (all much richer than Mclaren) have all taken talent from Mclaren too prop up their endeavours rather than grow them from the inside.

            Personally I couldn’t care less generally speaking. I too follow drivers rather than teams but when people talk about the Hamilton affect I do wonder why he could not succeed at an already succesful team as Mclaren and when Mclaren had a ridiculous dip in form in at the start of 2009 no one was blaming Lewis.

            1. @Carl Craven… Well to answer your question as to why no one was blaming Lewis for the poor performance of the McLaren at the start of the 2009 season, is because he was managing to put a car that was over 2 seconds off the pace of the Brawns in points scoring positions it didn’t look possible the car could achieve.

              Maybe you forgot that in the opening race in Australia, he technically put it third on the podium ahead of Trulli?

    11. The package is competive and capable of scoring valuable points, depsite only one car finishing today, I noticed Lewis was playing the thinking mans game at the first corner whilst being mindful of those around him which avoided contact

      The overall performance was consistent given the unknowns to contend with so analysing the root cause of where it hurt most ? excluding tyre degradation should provide some direction to improve, that said eveyone was in a similar position so tiiming will be crucial to target these areas effectively

      Take away the positives today and look forward to the challenges ahead within the team who have shown they are totally commited to produce the car to deliver the goods, this will be achieved so be patient and consider where they were in 2012

      The progress is key to narrow the gap with the competition so the effort will become evident in the future when the sweet spot is found there will be silence from the critics who know its coming along .

      Nothing will stand in the way of making this happen, everyones upbeat and with no barriers in place the team will get to the top as shown in less than favourable conditions they are podium contenders

      1. He also knew when to give up the fight against the Ferraris, both times effectively conceding position, knowing its not worth ruining the tyres and risk a collision, rather looking at the wider picture. I saw a much wiser considered drive. He could see that finishing the race was more important than trying to hold an unrealistic position.

        Its the similar long game approach he played last year, where his car let him down, while his driving was nearly impeccable.

        Thoroughly impressed by his performance and attitude today.

    12. I just saw a clib on the BBC where Hamilton says he ruined his tires while defending against Alonso.

      Isn’t this what makes Alonso the best driver in F1 – the fact that he stays focused on what is important in the moment (i.e. in lewis’ case “save the tires”)?

      I don’t recall Alonso getting involved in such incidents where he locks up so badly that he ruines his tires. I think Hamilton needs to learn from Alonso and try to be patient sometimes.

      If you can’t win the race, just aim for Podium, and move on to the next race – especially if your car is not good enough (yet).

      1. Watch Anthony Davidsons analysis of Hamiltons defense of Alonso. As he hit the brakes he hit a bump in the road (you can see the suspension travel) this caused the outside tyre to lock (the outside tyre is normally the loaded tyre and therefore dosnt lock)

    13. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      17th March 2013, 16:09

      Hamilton: 70 % of the result
      Mercedes: 30%
      Darn what a deffense against Alonso and what a move on Sutil!!!!!

      1. HelloTraverse
        17th March 2013, 18:25

        what a move on Sutil!!!!!

        The good guy came out on top :P

    14. Joining Mercedes is starting to look like a great move! McLaren were well off the pace of even Mercedes…

      1. Could he really have known that so far in advance or is hindsight a wonderful thing? He joined to develop Mercedes a la Schumacher at Ferrari (and himself after all those years at McC) not because he thought McClaren were building a dog – and until the later stages of testing and nor did anybody else – especially on this website. Yes Hamilton appears (after the first – st circuit race) to have made a fortuitous move but let’s not pretend that it was in this aspect of the move (how relatively much the car seems to have improved v McC) it was anything other than that.

        1. @Salcrich… I think your correct in your assessment that Hamilton couldn’t have known that the McLaren would perform poorly in the first race of 2013, on the contrary, he talked of Perez having a very good, very fast car for 2013…

          But he did understand the poor setup route that Button was being allowed to steer the team down.., a direction that for 5-6 races in the first half of 2012 sent the team and Button backwards and halted Lewis’s consistent performances.

          As soon as the team went back to developing around Lewis’s setup requirements, the performance came back.

          So to be totally honest, I don’t think it should come as any great shock that Button is struggling to steer the setup of this new package.

          1. Maybe but I can’t believe it was Button’s input that decided the pull rod / push rod debate and even though he is a junior Perez set up looks a disaster. There is design and there is set up surely. Hamilton could have continued down the same set up route. Set up won’t cure a basic design flaw. However my point was that I really don’t think that this was the major foresight that everyone is now attributing to Hamilton.

            1. A further thought on this – Paddy Lowe was ultimately
              responsible for the design of the current car – was this part of the foresight decision to jump ship?

    15. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
      17th March 2013, 20:13

      Starting to prove the doubters wrong, looking like an inspired decision.
      I widh he’d change his helmet cloour though, him and Rosberg are almost impossible to tell apart.

    16. Andrew Miles
      18th March 2013, 9:30

      Reflecting on the pit stop times between the top six finishers highlighted there is room for improvement as these varied between sub 3’s to plus 4 seconds hence the 3 pit stops added 3 seconds to the race distance result, from the scheduled tyre changes with potential to be more !

      Not where the team need to be losing time especially if this means finishing one place higher so it must be reduced so the target is 3 seconds or the team will pay the price with Red Bull & Ferrari

      Interestingly to note the set up on the Lotus was obviously lower as the barge board was making more contact than any other car ! ie never saw this replicated with Grojean’s car at the same track position. The diference between the lotus’s suggests Kimi’s set up was better suited (unsure if the barge board wear was excessive !) take note in Malaysia

      Have to say well satisfied with the first result so lets focus on polishing the finish touches to make the small difference that counts for remaining in contention for the title

    17. Is it just me or Hamilton drove this race in a Schumacher way? He didn’t let no one pass him without a tough fight, even though there is no chance for him to maintain his position for no more than 2-3 laps. I mean I love his driving style, don’t get me wrong, but I think that this season, especially this race, could only be won with cool head and tactics. It’s such a shame but that’s a reality. This tires won’t allow aggresivnes. And it’s not about Hamilton only. Vettel, Massa and Alonso felt the same problem. I’ve never seen RBR with the tires that are so much worn.

    18. I believe Mercedes’ problem lies in their choice of gearing which favors
      a high top speed at the expense of acceleration.

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