Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2017

Race would have been “much closer” without Safety Car – Hamilton

2017 Chinese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton admitted the Safety Car played a useful role in his Chinese Grand Prix victory ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

The Mercedes driver was able to change onto slick tyres early in the race when the Safety Car was deployed for Antonio Giovinazzi’s crash. That kept him ahead of Vettel, who had pitted from second place onto slicks during an earlier Virtual Safety Car period.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Shanghai International Circuit, 2017
2017 Chinese Grand Prix in pictures
Vettel chased Hamilton late in the race but the Australian Grand Prix winner was unable to catch the Mercedes. But Hamilton acknowledged they were “matching times” towards the end. “So I think we feel that if there wasn’t a Safety Car it would have been much closer.”

Hamilton said the pair were “both pushing” at the end. “Those last 20 laps or so, exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try to match it. And he was closing the gap a little bit but I managed to stay ahead.”

He predicted the championship battle will be “one of the closest ones, if not the closest, personally I’ve ever experienced.”

“I’m looking forward to this fight, not only Sebastian but these other guys as well, they’re still going to be in amongst it.”

The race started on a damp but drying track. Hamilton said the conditions were “very tough for us all and it was “difficult to know” which tyres to use for the start of the race.

“I went out on inters initially on the laps to the grid, then I tried a slick which was impossible.”

“And then we all started on inters and it was very hard because there was a lot of dry patches everyone. Mostly dry, but there were a lot of corners which were wet. Trying to keep the car on the track and look after tyres at the same time was definitely very tough.”

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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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    9 comments on “Race would have been “much closer” without Safety Car – Hamilton”

    1. The SC did not cost Ferrari (or Vettel, rather) the race. What did indeed cost them, was being stuck behind Ricciardo. And how that happened, I don’t know. RIC pitted during the SC whilst in P2, yet emerged ahead of RAI and VET, still in P2. That is unexcusable from Ferrari. Kimi should have been on his gearbox, no excuse. It’s not the same as the VSC where you should keep relative distance.

      1. timing was indeed a bit strange. I can only guess that they lost plenty of time changing tires under VSC that once safety car came out they couldn’t catch up quick enough.

    2. I know that it is “coulda, shoulda, woulda” but it could have been an interesting fight between VET and HAM without the SC

    3. Did Seb have 5 laps older tyres?
      Its all heading for a cracker if the machines are evenly matched

    4. That yes it was gonna be a proper battle.

    5. The fact that SC caused everyone to go through pit lane made harm to those who had pitted. If there had been crash in the spot where Karthikeyan crashed in 2005, non-pitting drivers could have gone through the start-finish straight using delta time and not with pit speed limit, therefore going through a bit faster.

    6. What really cost us a great race was how bad Kimi was performing. I don’t know if it was the car setup or if Kimi of old just isn’t there anymore. It looked like he was making no attempt to try to overtake. Vettel managed within a few laps of trying, so impossible to overtake can’t exactly be the cause either

    7. In a straight fight in comparable machinery, VET, as most others in the bracket of top drivers, would prevail over HAM over the course of a season. While HAM almost takes pride in avoiding what he terms boring technical work off the track, most others show the requisite appetite for this “dirty work” and will more often than not be able to leverage a better understanding of engineering aspects.

    8. You could argue that’s not true at all. Would say only the Ham haters would agree with you.

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