Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Will Hamilton really miss the medium tyres he ‘pleaded’ for?

2020 Russian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Is Lewis Hamilton’s position really as vulnerable as it might seem going into Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix?

Unlike his closest rivals, he wasn’t able to qualify on his preferred tyre compound. And while he has pole position, that may not be as great an advantage at Sochi as it is at other tracks. He’ll be serving up a generous tow to his pursuers on the long run to turn two – especially if there’s a headwind.

What’s more, two of the quickest starters behind him have landed on the cleaner side of the grid: team mate Valtteri Bottas in third position and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault in fifth, which has made some great getaways lately.

Carlos Sainz Jnr is among those concerned one side of the grip will offer much more grip than the other. “There is a dirty side, particularly this year off-line it looks very dirty,” he said.

“Today in the out-laps whenever I was trying to overtake a car or get out of line, the dirty side or off-line it was particularly dirty. A lot of stones, a lot of dust coming out of the car in front.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2020
Sainz is concerned about poor grip off the racing line
“So I do feel like it’s not the ideal place to start. I like starting sixth, I think it’s a good place to start, it’s just this side of the grid looks particularly dirty.”

Hamilton raised concerns about his starting tyre compound after qualifying. Following various setbacks in Q2, Hamilton was forced to accept starting the race on soft tyres instead of the favoured mediums.

“I did plead to have the medium tyre but they weren’t having it,” he explained afterwards. “Naturally I think we will have a discussion at the end, whether it was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter now, it’s happened so we will just make do with what we have.”

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Max Verstappen, who cleverly exploited Bottas’s tow to join Hamilton on the front row, and Bottas in third place will both start on the medium rubber.

“It’s clearly not the optimum strategy,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, “because after some laps, the soft is clearly going to suffer. That means it compromises your whole race because you probably need to pit into traffic. And then obviously it’s not a great situation.”

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Sochi Autodrom, 2020
Renault’s Permane says the soft tyre isn’t too bad
But other teams who have qualified on the soft tyres are less concerned. Renault’s sporting director Alan Permane predicted those starting on the soft rubber will be able to do “15, 20 or so laps” at the start, which is hardly a drama in a 53-lap race.

“It’s not as bad as we’ve seen certainly before here in previous years on an even stiffer compound. I think when we had the thicker gauge tires, the C4 we had here one year was awful. This tyre’s behaving pretty well for a soft tyre. So I don’t think we’ve got any concerns.

“Some people were running reasonably long stints on it yesterday afternoon. We saw people I think this morning running multiple laps on it and going faster. So no, we’re not worried about it.

“You see the top three have gone on the medium, that’s because they’re in their own race and it just makes things a little bit more comfortable for them. But I don’t think there’s a great deal between the two.”

Hamilton’s tyres therefore may not be the disadvantage he fears they are. They may even hand him a vital advantage when he needs it most.

The extra initial grip at the start of the race may even give him a useful few extra metres’ advantage over Bottas on that long run to the first braking zone. One ‘disadvantage’ could therefore cancel out the other.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.9831’32.835 (-0.148)1’31.304 (-1.531)
2Max VerstappenRed Bull1’33.6301’33.157 (-0.473)1’31.867 (-1.290)
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’32.6561’32.405 (-0.251)1’31.956 (-0.449)
4Sergio PerezRacing Point1’33.7041’33.038 (-0.666)1’32.317 (-0.721)
5Daniel RicciardoRenault1’33.6501’32.218 (-1.432)1’32.364 (+0.146)
6Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’33.9671’32.757 (-1.210)1’32.550 (-0.207)
7Esteban OconRenault1’33.5571’33.196 (-0.361)1’32.624 (-0.572)
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1’33.8041’33.081 (-0.723)1’32.847 (-0.234)
9Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’33.7341’33.139 (-0.595)1’33.000 (-0.139)
10Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’33.9191’33.153 (-0.766)1’33.008 (-0.145)
11Charles LeclercFerrari1’34.0711’33.239 (-0.832)
12Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’33.5111’33.249 (-0.262)
13Lance StrollRacing Point1’33.8521’33.364 (-0.488)
14George RussellWilliams1’34.0201’33.583 (-0.437)
15Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.1341’33.609 (-0.525)
16Romain GrosjeanHaas1’34.592
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’34.594
18Kevin MagnussenHaas1’34.681
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams1’35.066
20Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’35.267

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton33.361 (2)31.330 (1)26.544 (1)
Max Verstappen33.513 (3)31.613 (3)26.741 (3)
Valtteri Bottas33.337 (1)31.459 (2)26.844 (6)
Sergio Perez33.884 (7)31.696 (6)26.635 (2)
Daniel Ricciardo33.631 (4)31.691 (5)26.827 (5)
Carlos Sainz Jnr33.908 (9)31.690 (4)26.888 (8)
Esteban Ocon33.904 (8)31.894 (8)26.818 (4)
Lando Norris34.017 (13)31.889 (7)26.860 (7)
Pierre Gasly34.029 (14)31.984 (9)26.987 (11)
Alexander Albon33.940 (11)32.086 (10)26.966 (10)
Charles Leclerc33.967 (12)32.254 (13)27.018 (12)
Daniil Kvyat33.939 (10)32.204 (12)26.952 (9)
Lance Stroll33.870 (5)32.194 (11)27.300 (15)
George Russell33.870 (5)32.358 (15)27.355 (16)
Sebastian Vettel34.152 (15)32.338 (14)27.079 (13)
Romain Grosjean34.611 (20)32.728 (17)27.253 (14)
Antonio Giovinazzi34.358 (16)32.817 (18)27.419 (18)
Kevin Magnussen34.433 (18)32.719 (16)27.380 (17)
Nicholas Latifi34.396 (17)32.927 (19)27.743 (20)
Kimi Raikkonen34.501 (19)33.098 (20)27.668 (19)

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Over to you

Does Verstappen have a hope of beating the Mercedes drivers? Who will take the all-important lead at the start?

Share your views on the Russian Grand Prix in the comments.

2020 Russian 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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29 comments on “Will Hamilton really miss the medium tyres he ‘pleaded’ for?”

  1. Even if Bottas gets past Hamilton at the start, it’s difficult to imagine him staying there. Hamilton was over a half second faster on the same tyres: medium v. soft? No chance. Although he’s talked already about ‘nursing’ the tyres, we might actually see Hamilton set a fast pace and leave Bottas with the puzzle of how much of a gap he can afford to leave. Hamilton has been far better at combining speed and tyre preservation. This would be an ideal race to push Bottas to the limit. Could all be undone for Hamilton with an untimely SC cancelling out any gap he makes on the softs, but maybe worth the risk.

    1. if a sc comes out then its advantage to ham as he gets a free pitstop to get rid of softs.

    2. Grab your popcorn. It is going to be an intense race of strategies. Bottas needs to get P2 at the start if he wants to win this race.

      1. Bottas will never actually accomplish anything.

      2. I think Bottas has a great chance of getting P1 at the start tbf @krichelle

        1. @3dom

          I believe that too. I am also thinking that he deliberately wanted P3. Especially considering what Sainz just said. In the F2 race yesterday, Schumacher from P3 easily beat Ilott off the line. Over the last three years, we saw what the driver from P3 can do in the start. It will be easier to pick up the tow from Hamilton..

  2. George Russell’s Williams had the 5th quickest 1st sector, running a different set up to Latifi or just much quicker?

    1. @djarvis I’ve not seen the lap but, looking at the data as seen on today’s roundup, it appears that he was slow at the start of the straight but was purple for the rest of the straight, implying that the exit of the previous corner was average but he had a pretty mega tow which then didnt affect him for the rest of the lap.

  3. We all know he’ll slaughter the rest of the grid tomorrow mainly down to his car advantage and appallingly weak teammate.

    Please stop entertaining the Lewis Hamilton drama show, it’s tiring.

    1. I wonder what your point is exactly!

      1. That he could win the GP on dead tyres from 1988, such is the car advantage.

        I mean, when was the last time Bottas beat him on merit? It doesn’t happen, partly because of talent but also partly because Mercedes doesn’t let it happen.

  4. For a moment he seemed stuck at p15… Now that would be a fun race.

    1. Indeed, was kinda hoping for it cause in monza he “started” 19 seconds behind the penultimate (albon) and had half a race distance, by starting 15th, or even just 20th with a standing start he should be able to fight for the first positions with the car he has.

    2. Yeah, Ferrari aka vettel’s ‘crash’ could have derailed Hamilton’s progress to that 91st win. As it is that ‘crash’ shows a level of desperation which only belittle’s them as a team.

      I can just see their minds – ‘Hamilton hasn’t recorded a time, and he’s running out of time, how can we exploit that situation…’. Answer try and ‘red flag’ Q2.

      The fact that Hamilton, with all that added pressure, still managed to set a decent time (4th) is further testament to his skills as a driver.

      1. Sure, not only Vettel’s crash yesterday was obviously deliberate, he has been practising it for the last three years so he could deliver it to perfection. That’s the secret behind all his apparently silly crashes these last few years.

  5. I’m wondering if he’ll deliberately offer Verstappen a better tow. Verstappen has fallen far enough behind in the WDC that he isn’t really a threat.

    Plus his team will employ all strategy options to pass Verstappen. if Bottas gets ahead of him the team might not allow some strategies.

    It’s the only problem with letting Verstappen have a good toe is the possibility of a collision with him on the first lap.

    1. That’ll take strategy to a while another level and it’s not convoluted either like Ferrari had last year.

  6. Frankly, I cant see why the soft tyres are such a big disadvantage for the top runners. If Max or Bottas jumps him at the start (less likely due to the soft tyre advantage to begin with) and is still ahead at the pit stop, as soon as Hamilton pits he will either get the undercut and regain the lead, or the leader will pit the following lap to cover and then there will be no advantage to starting on the mediums.

  7. If I was Hamilton I’d be tempted to sprint off if leading after the first corner. Try and get a 5+ second gap by lap 10 then if the traffic looks okay switch to a 2 stop.

    1. Most likely traffic will still be bunched up at lap 10.

  8. Does Verstappen have a hope of beating the Mercedes drivers? – Not on pure pace
    Who will take the all-important lead at the start? – HAM.

  9. I think the RBs and Renaults are pretty good on tyres so Bottas may be in the firing line particularly from Verstappen. When was the last time Hamilton Verstappen Sainz or Ricciardo mucked up a start Bottas on the other hand…
    Hamilton would seem to have the pace (as usual) to open up a pit stop sized gap. So given RB are excellent at the strategy wars I wouldn’t be surprised to see Verstappen on the second step.

    1. Low tyre wear on this circuit.

  10. Here is my prediction for the start: Hamilton gets off the line well, while Bottas and Verstappen have similar starts. Hamilton then stays to the left of the the track, giving Bottas a tow and edging him ahead of Verstappen, before Hamilton moves to protect the inside line for turn 2. Order after turn 2 will be Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Verstappen.

    1. Or Hamilton’s allows Verstappen to get ahead then he slips stream Verstappen to retake the position. As long as he keeps Bottas behind Hamilton won’t mind what Verstappen does. Worst case, Hamilton is 4th into the second corner.

  11. Btw, has there been any footage of Mercedes actually using their DAS system in a race, e.g. To heat up their tires after a restart, etc?

    If that system is still incorporated, you’d think we would have seen examples of it, particularly in Q2 when Hamilton’s needed to warm up his tires, and his team were insisting he starts on the Fasts, because the Mediums wouldn’t reach temperature in time.

  12. It seems Bottas didn’t string his best sector times together. He only lost a chunk of time in the final sector compared to Hamilton, but not 6 tenths.
    As for the start, the speed-trap figures may be useful. Last time at Mugello Bottas seemed vulnerable at the restarts as he had a slightly lower top speed. I believe Hamilton has the highest top speed, which, in combination with his softer tires, give him a decent chance to retain the lead. Verstappen, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to lose places at the start.
    If Hamilton retains the lead, he’ll nurse his tires in the first ten laps or so. If Bottas jumps to the lead, he might force Hamilton to take too much out of his tires, which could be interesting, or extremely boring if Hamilton takes it easy and allows him to build a decent gap.

  13. Slowest formation lap in history coming up!

Comments are closed.