Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020

Hamilton insists he doesn’t ‘sandbag’ during practice

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t hide his true pace during practice, after again taking pole position despite trailing his team mate earlier in the weekend.

Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time in all three practice sessions for the Portuguese Grand Prix. But Hamilton beat him to pole position by a tenth of a second in qualifying.

Hamilton said he had gradually worked on improving his pace at the unfamiliar Autodromo do Algarve throughout the race weekend.

“It’s like building a wall,” he said. “You put one brick, the next, the next, and you just continue to improve throughout. There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background to try and fine-tune, to get the right, perfect setting for the brake bias and the diff and how you attack each single corner.

“It just doesn’t come easy. So I’ve been pushing all weekend. I generally think I’ve been driving really well all weekend. I’ve been really happy with my performances through practice, but he’s always been at the top.

“I really, really had to just continue to dig and continue to believe that I could eventually get there. So honestly coming across the line and getting the pole it was a great feeling, naturally, because we really had to work our socks off for it.”

Hamilton admitted he did try ‘sandbagging’ earlier in his career, but decided it wasn’t an effective approach.

“I don’t have anything to hide, I don’t hold anything back,” he said. “I’ve never, personally, felt that that’s worked.

“I remember when I was younger and in the lower categories some people tried doing that stuff. But I remember trying it when I was in Formula 3 or something like that and it never ended. So that’s never been something that’s part of my philosophy.”

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2020 Portuguese 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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28 comments on “Hamilton insists he doesn’t ‘sandbag’ during practice”

  1. Sure you don’t Lewis!

    1. No matter what he says, your mind is made up, isn’t it?

    2. hehehehehe, as PR friendly as always

    3. Too right. Others need to find the right lines, see how far they can push the tyres, find where to brake, get the car balanced, find where the grip is and where the limits of the track are. Then build and build on their lap time during Q1, 2 and 3.
      Meanwhile Hamilton just has to turn up and turn it on at second run Q3; even if it’s a new track.
      Brilliant isn’t he.

  2. And if he does sandbag? So what? There’s no benefit for “winning” the practice sessions. Practice is for practicing. Qualifying is for qualifying. Only grid positions go into the record books.

  3. I’m a Hamilton fan and I remember him sandbagging after Malaysia 2014 when the team did a study on how he was able to put half a minute on Rosberg while using less fuel. Maybe HAM doesn’t feel like he needs to sandbag with BOT coz he knows he has him covered but that certainly wasn’t the case during the Rosberg days- justifiably so.

    1. Ham won the next couple of races after that. BOT is better than ROS, just not as dirty or lucky.

  4. János Henkelmann
    24th October 2020, 20:05

    I’m sure he does and there is nothing wrong with it.

    Mind games have always been part of F1.

  5. I wouldn’t imagine he goes slower in practice as a means to deliberately hide his pace… but I could believe that he drives a practice session like a practice session, and a qualifying session like a qualifying session.

    Could just be that Bottas pushes harder in practice than Hamilton does, so he has less to gain when he steps up to maximum effort in qualifying.

    That would be my best guess, anyway… given each driver approaches things in his own way, and has his own idea of when to push, and how hard. If we were to go down the pit lane and find a way to measure the amount of effort drivers put into extracting maximum pace during practice sessions, we’d probably get 20 different results.

    1. Yeah I agree – they all step it up for a fast lap in quali which means in effect, they’re all sandbagging in practice because they’re not going as fast as they can.

    2. The objective is to be fast when it matters. As Hamilton says, he is constantly trying different things in practice, not all changes work. Practice is for pushing the limits, section running, and making mistakes. A driver who is always fast in practice is not pushing hard enough, nor taking the lap apart to figure out the pieces.

      Musicians call this “deliberate practice.” You don’t just keep repeating the piece, you take it apart and put it together, taking new approaches to see if they work, keep what’s better, discard what isn’t. It’s what great performers do in any field, any sport, any art. Hamilton seems to better at it than other current F1 drivers. And no, he doesn’t really care about his practice position. That’s unimportant compared to finding a couple of hundredths in a combination, or finessing a brake bias setting.

      So no, he isn’t sandbagging. He’s just practicing more deliberately.

      1. I always try to find other commentary during the practice sessions as this is not something Sky seem the slightest bit interested in unless Rosberg is in the chair. Failing that a number of F1 youtube cover the subject over the race weekend. Always fascinating to see Max and Ham in particular building their laps over the weekend and unlocking the key to a fast lap or the balance needed through a particular corner to preserve race tyres. (T10 Sochi and T2/3 Barcelona prime examples.)
        Same with Russell. Slowly builds his lap, doesn’t chase the track, and come qualifying pulls out a few tenths; which always seem to confuse the Sky crowd for some reason.
        This is where I miss the C4 coverage. They always told the story of the session and the overall arc of each drivers progress.

  6. Like when he complains far more than any other driver about his tyres dropping off and having no grip and therefore making his performance look more impressive, by letting Bottas win some sessions he’s making Bottas look like a stronger teammate than he actually is. In reality Bottas wasn’t much quicker than a Massa 7 years past his prime.

    1. David Dimbo – all the drivers complain about no grip and their tyres dropping off. But because Lewis is the most successful driver ever (with the most poles ever and equaling the most wins) he gets quoted the most.

    2. Yeah because the other 19 drivers never ever complain about the tyres…. its just Hamilton

    3. Ah, the old ‘Bottas is rubbish’ line of attack… along with ‘he moans too much’ – anything to attack the man who is the best and one of the greats to whom all the other drivers look as the man to beat… :-)

  7. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    24th October 2020, 22:41

    I’m gettign quite tired of these standard ‘Lewis and Toto say X even though everyone with some understanding of F1 knows it’s Y’ articles. I get that not being able to be there decreases the amount of content you guys can push, but these obvious lies aren’t worth reporting. At this rate you’re just turning into ya olde copy-paste sites that just publish everything because it scores views. You know Lewis is full of it, we know he’s full of it: don’t bother posting it then.

    1. If this site isn’t your only income, you can probably pick and choose a bit more. But it is Keith’s, so I don’t blame him for covering a lot of stuff, pointless or not. But he’s be no means the only one, and is easily better than the worst.

      I’d have more of an issue if it was clickbait, but for the most part, the titles are enough for me to assume the context and not bother clicking if it’s something that I would find frivolous. Just because you can have an obvious answer, it does not mean it’s not worth posting the article.

  8. There have been many times in HAM’s career where he has led every practice session. He’s not holding much back if he is at all. BOT was great all weekend but the conditions changed during qually and many different drivers noticed it. I remember hearing VER and STR mentioning it over the radio, and others.

  9. British media still cant get his head around this phenomenon, that HAM is rubbish with setup and heavily benefits from the more technical teammates because of the sharing of data. It would mean that the demonized and class b ROS was better than him in something…

  10. Of course not….. just that he always gets the top strategy while BOT the scraps.

    1. I doubt that, but Hamilton is consistently in front so gets first call on strategy more often than not. When Bottas is in the lead so does he.

      1. Well… in Q3 HAM got from the team the “opportunity” of having 3 runs… instead of the usual 2 runs. BOT did not get the “opportunity” of having 3 runs in order to protect his provisional PP. It seems preferential, desperate etc. How many PPs HAM wants?!

      2. I mean in 2 vs 2 runs BOT got the PP. HAM needed a 3rd run in order improve. Very probably BOT would have been in PP if got the chance of a 3rd run too.

  11. Yeah. Ok Lewis.

    You look like a hero when you’ve been slower in every session, until the one that counts. Plus then you get to do the whole ‘panting out of breath Senna routine’ in Parc Ferme.

    “I can’t believe it.” Well, we can.

  12. If he were sandbagging all weekend, which there is no evidence of, it would make his pole even more remarkable… turning up at a newly configured track, cruising round minding his own business all weekend then whacking in a pole lap on his first real attampt… Lol, whatever criticism they throw at Hamilton you can’t undermine his ability.

    Besides, its free <—- practice and he can do what he wants…

  13. He doesn’t need to be sandbagging. The only time reported is the fastest quali lap simulation time of each session.

    Clearly Hamilton has changed his way and stopped putting too much emphasis on quali sims, because Hamilton realized that focusing mostly on Q3 (like Bottas does) leaves him vulnerable during the race (like Bottas almost always is).

    Verstappen has been going for race setup too. He wasn’t getting pole anyway and he has nobody behind threatening him either. Maybe that’s changing slowly though, since Verstappen looks closer in Q3 and further behind on race pace lately and has had more tyre degrading issues.

    So Hamilton might sacrifice some Q3 laptime, but he will know he still has a high chance of pole anyway and even if he doesn’t get it, a high chance that Bottas will quickly ruin his tyres due to his Q3 setup not working well in the race.

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