Hamilton expected new cars would be quicker despite record pole lap

2017 Australian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he expected Formula One’s new generation of cars to lap quicker after setting a record-breaking pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver lapped the Albert Park circuit in 1’22.188 which was 1.649 seconds faster than last year’s pole position time and 1.341 seconds inside the previous track record, set six years ago.

Australian Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
However Hamilton admitted to being underwhelmed by the reduction in lap time.

“Of course we thought it would be more than that,” he said. “I’m not really sure why it’s so close.”

“Yeah, it’s the track, it was cool today. I’m sure during the year it’s going to ramp up much quicker; development with this car – being that it’s a new car – development is going to be at a much faster rate than last year.”

F1 set a target of reducing lap times by five seconds based on the pole position time at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix. During testing Ferrari lapped the track six seconds faster than that benchmark.

Several drivers have made minor errors during the weekend so far and three of them – Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Jolyon Palmer – have hit the wall. Hamilton said this wasn’t necessarily a reflection of how hard the new cars are to drive.

“Our job is to put the car where it is most uncomfortable,” he said. “We’re not there to make it sit on rails so we’ve got to take it over the edge or just hold it on the edge of that cliff through the whole lap and that’s the fun of what we do.”

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Keith Collantine
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10 comments on “Hamilton expected new cars would be quicker despite record pole lap”

  1. I expected it to be a lot faster. I would have expected that kind of progress within the same rules, especially with better tyres. Either the track was too cool or Melbourne’s characteristics limit the gain because of the trade off of drag to corner speed.

    I think other tracks will benefit, I expect bonkers laps around Monaco.

    1. @philipgb I’ve had a look at the data here, I think it’s pretty much in line with what was forecast. Perhaps the tyres are a bit on the hard side, but Pirelli were always going to have to be conservative:


      1. Supposedly they were on the softer tyre unlike 2016. Friday I made the same point as Lewis, the practice times were immense but the cars didn’t feel nowhere near as sorted as last year’s. I do think it must be the different characteristics of the tyres, the old tyres were really squishy, they were great for ultimate speed.

      2. @keithcollantine

        Yeah, I caught that. But there is no change in the trend we see from ’14 -> ’15 -> ’16. It’s the same trajectory of improvement which is why it’s not as fast as I expected given the huge amount of technical changes made to improve performance. I’d have expected this improvement from a static set of rules.

        Mercedes themselves even say that in season they improve the car by about 2 seconds a lap. So hypothetically if they had arrived at Melbourne 2016 with the Abu Dhabi 2016 car they would have been faster than the times set today.

        So perhaps the cool track conditions masked performance, perhaps the more durable tyres have less outright grip, or perhaps we’re just near the optimal machine to lap Albert Park so it will yield less extra lap time from all the improvements than we can expect from other circuits.

  2. As always with new regulations, it may take time for the teams to fully develop a car that gets close to the potential they have. In 2014 the lap times were well down, but by 2015 they had got a lot back. And it was the same in 2009 and 2010. We might have to wait until 2018 for the cars to be as quick as hoped, but as long as the regulations allow for it they will keep getting faster.

  3. But this is clean air running just as it was for 2015…for all quali sessions obviously. For me the benchmark wrt lap times is during the races. Let’s see how much faster they are in races. I predict that will be when the real difference shows. They won’t nearly be babying these tires like they’ve had to trundle along with for the past 3 or 4 years. The ultra conservation modes they’ve had to race in were never as much a factor for running clean air single hot laps in quali.

  4. 2015 pole time: 1:26.327
    2016 pole time: 1:23.837 (-2.490)
    2017 pole time: 1:22.188 (-1.649)

    Apparently steady car development and softer tires reduced lap times more between 2015 and 2016 than the wider cars and wider tires, which is really odd. Based on how close Ferrari is, this suggests that Mercedes haven’t made most of the new rules.

    1. Indeed, it seems that relative to the performance of the grid as a whole, it’s Mercedes that may have gone slightly backwards here.

    2. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      25th March 2017, 22:42

      Firstly, diminishing returns. Harder and harder to go even faster. Secondly, weight. Even over 2016 this years cars are 20kg heavier. 702kg vs 722kg fully laden. What is it they say, 1kg is half a tenth roughly? So that is around a second they have given away from last year.

      But then you look at 2004, the cars were 605kg fully laden. That is upwards of 5+ seconds they’re giving away purely in weight.

      I’ve no idea how low they could get the weight with these modern PU but hypothetically this years cars could be doing 1.17s around Albert Park, if they went on a diet. Maybe more like 1:19s if you were more realistic with the cuts.

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