How Hamilton’s one-shot overtakes handed him a tyre life advantage

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s ability to execute overtaking moves cleanly and quickly during the Portuguese Grand Prix gave him a tyre advantage, according to his team.

The Mercedes driver passed title rival Max Verstappen and team mate Valtteri Bottas on his way to victory at the Autodromo do Algarve last weekend. But he also managed to keep his medium compound tyres working at their best for longer than Bottas, and a gap opened up between them towards the end of the first stint.

Mercedes head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin said Hamilton’s patience while waiting for an opportunity to pass meant he kept his tyres in good shape.

“Lewis is very good at overtaking,” said Shovlin. “He seems to know where to position the car building up to it.

“He also often doesn’t keep trying lap after lap. He’ll just sit there and then takes the opportunity.

Hamilton went after Bottas after passing Verstappen
“But his feel for the tyres, I think, is the key to how he manages to sit there and not overheat them and look after them. He’s got the same tyres as everyone else and you damage them by getting them hot, by sliding them. So the key to it is just keeping them cool and managing the sliding. I think he’s just better at it than the others.”

After being overtaken by Verstappen during the restart Hamilton reined in any frustration he felt and resisted the urge to strike back immediately at his rival, Shovlin explained.

“To be honest you never really know with Lewis because I think he was a bit frustrated with himself at the Safety Car restart. And then, a bit like last year, he seemed fairly calm and collected and wasn’t really talking to us at that point.

“I don’t know how confident he was that he could retain position. But the thing here was that you saw as soon as anyone has any kind of a moment in [turn] 14, they become vulnerable. And it is a relatively easy track to overtake [at]. If you can get within seven tenths then you’re in with a shout.

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“So as it happens it sort of felt like if he hadn’t done it that time, we’d have had a few goes and would have eventually made it through. So Lewis seem pretty relaxed about dropping to that position.”

After the race Hamilton explained why he dropped back from Verstappen after being passed by the Red Bull, then closed in again to make his move.

With Bottas in his mirrors, Hamilton headed for victory
“Max was super-fast on that restart and there was a moment I think we were all very, very close,” he said. “I fell back, maybe a second or something like that and I needed to get closer but for a moment there was far too big a gap.

“I wasn’t in the DRS, and I just had to gather my thoughts and made a couple of tweaks in terms of how I was driving and then start on the attack again. Once I did, obviously I got closer.

“Max, I think, had a small mistake which then put me in a nice position out of turn five and then I just needed to keep that gap through the rest of the lap and that was where I was able to get past him.

“Then, after that, I was just focussing on bridging the gap between myself and Valtteri, who was very quick out of the last corner. ”

Hamilton was reluctant to expand on his treatment of his tyres, but indicated he prioritised ensuring they were in the best possible shape for the race.

“I guess it’s just knowledge of the tyres, really, and knowing which ones you can lean on and where you can… I can’t really say too much, to be honest.

“I think everyone was pushing and did great on their tyres. I just managed to get the balance pretty sweet, better for the race than it was for qualifying.”

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47 comments on “How Hamilton’s one-shot overtakes handed him a tyre life advantage”

  1. The pass on Bottas was actually seriously amazing, pass of the year stuff. I’m not a Hamilton fan, but that one could’ve been a crash with less professional drivers. It was the kind of pass you keep watching replays of when you do you do it in a video game or simracing. So perfectly executed. I guess that is why his haters are downplaying it and hating on drs, while the actual pass happened because of driver skill in n the last moments.

    Reply moderated
    1. That pass was intimidating. As season goes on Max would get some. Bottas didn’t knew where should defense. Hamilton pass on Botass came from more than 7 cars length gaining and gaining flat out.

  2. It’s not just that he’s fast, it’s his deep and thorough understanding that makes him so hard to beat.
    And the fact that he is just relentless, you can never say with certainty that he’s beaten in a race until it’s over.

    1. I’m not the biggest Lewis fan in the world (especially after the last 7 years), but I 100% agree with you here. The depth of knowledge he has about his car and his mindset of ‘it’s never over until it’s over’ is mightily impressive.

      Take Turkey last year for example. After 25 laps I think very few people would have had money on Lewis winning that race. But he did, and he did it with a 31 second margin. I can only think of 3 or 4 ‘bad races’ from his position in the hybrid era (one’s where he’s at fault for something going wrong, not counting reliability/strategy errors)

      1. This never give up mindset is a significant improvement hamilton had during the 2018 season, before that he was more likely to give up when things went wrong, so the hamilton vs vettel balance for a fight really shifted that season.

    2. Yes, he’s fast and has deep understanding and is relentless and he has the best car, that’s why you can never say with certainty that he’s beaten

      1. Want some twisted to go with that bitter?

        1. Bitter and bored. All hollow victories

          1. Bitter, bored, clueless and needs to find a different sport to follow more like.

    3. Hamilton The Tyre Whisperer.

      1. Vuyo Boltina
        5th May 2021, 12:17

        Even Vettel once conceded that Lewis knows how to Massage Tires. . .

    4. I agree.
      Verstappen should be leading by 8 points the championship, haven´t he exceeded track limits in Bahrein and in Portugal.
      Hamilton´s been the underdog this 3 races, and got away with them with a mix of his talent, his experience and lack of mistakes (he got lucky with the one he did in Imola and the timing of the Russel-Bottas crash)

      1. But then his talent did the rest, he was lucky – yes. But would any other driver have finished second without another mistake?
        I doubt it.

      2. yeah sure if Max hadnt exceeded track limits in Portugal he would have won you are saying? Interesting mixing FL and a race win to cater your narrative. Hope all is well

  3. Curiously, Autosport has an article showing how Hamilton toke a different approach in his rear wing setup compared to Bottas, which helped him save more rubber and gain an advantage on the straights.

    Its interesting because there’s a lot of people around here claiming that he were faster on the straights. In the end, it was an important strategical decision.

    1. ian dearing
      4th May 2021, 15:49

      Not disagreeing with their position, but he’s been saving rubber compared to his teammate for years. And a lot is to do with the way he keeps the car balanced through a corner or change of direction. Be interesting to see how George gets on next year if he is in the other Merc, as he said last year he had taken advice from Ham on looking after tyres.

    2. We were discussing during the race whether we could see a difference! I’m not sure if this article has the logic nailed completely, I mean if you’re not putting as much load into the carcass you’re going slower round the bends, but it certainly helped with passing did it not. Lewis steers with the back end a lot anyway, with the different lines perhaps that’s it. And/or perhaps it means slightly lower pressures?

  4. Why can’t we have tyres that have to be kept hot, that are damaged by not sliding them…?

    1. Because that’s not how physics works. All tyres have an optimum slip angle which is how they generate grip. Keeping the Pirelli at this slip angle consistently, lap after lap, as fuel loads and dirty air affect the balance, is extraordinarily difficult.

  5. What a Marketing machine Mercedes has:
    “Lewis is very good at overtaking,” said Shovlin. “He seems to know where to position the car building up to it.”
    – Yes, that’s why these guys get to F1, they all do it. Some are better than others. Having a good car definitely helps.
    “He also often doesn’t keep trying lap after lap. He’ll just sit there and then takes the opportunity”
    – As does anyone else since DRS en electrical systems came into play. You recharge and then go for it. Chance on success increases with car performance
    “After being overtaken by Verstappen during the restart Hamilton reined in any frustration he felt and resisted the urge to strike back immediately at his rival, Shovlin explained.”
    “To be honest you never really know with Lewis because I think he was a bit frustrated with himself at the Safety Car restart. And then, a bit like last year, he seemed fairly calm and collected and wasn’t really talking to us at that point.
    – Of course, why worry? There is no reason for it given the overspeed in the car. Recharge the stuff, take the DRS and your engine advantage and fly by. All weekend was clear that the exit before the main straight was owned by the Mercedes car, translating it all the way along the straight. Add DRS and any-one becomes a sitting duck.
    “I don’t know how confident he was that he could retain position”
    – I guess 95% given the race pace of the car and especially given the race pace of Bottas. What also helps is that Max clearly indicated on Friday evening that this weekend for him was ‘all about damage control on a Mercedes track’
    I don’t think there has ever been a sports team this good in fake playing the underdog role and translating this into a success-story like they have overcome and fought back out of a horrendous situation, against all odds and competition they have actually won! Who would have thought such thing? Wow, but becoming as boring as the races itself

    1. ian dearing
      4th May 2021, 16:03

      I think its very very tight and as we see in Imola race the RB was fastest in the first half, Merc in the second. Putting aside the FL stops Max and Ham would have finished less than 5s apart. That’s close after 66 laps with overtakes, and a Max error that cost him time all the way down the straight. Theirs strengths and weaknesses in both cars, but you can see they are very close on pace. If they both sustain this level of performance Max and Ham will be going head to head all season.

      1. I hope you are right. We could use some more excitement during a season.

    2. Verstappen should be leading by 8 points the championship, haven´t he exceeded track limits in Bahrein and in Portugal.
      Hamilton´s been the underdog this 3 races, and got away with them with a mix of his talent, his experience and lack of mistakes (he got lucky with the one he did in Imola and the timing of the Russel-Bottas crash)

      1. Sure, since the RB is so superior. Just have a look at Perez and Bottas. Clearly the Mercedes is struggling. Give me a break. I love Lewis and think he’s up there amongst the best, but a lot of his fans are unwilling to admit to the share his car jas in alk of this. And frankly it is a bit insulting to past drivers with more talent and also unfair vs the rest of the field. Some hidden talent here and there, but all goes to Hamilton JUST because he is so good. In a Haas he would still win. Sure

    3. Lol,that’s a lot of typing to say “It’s the car.”

      Of course, if Mercedes came to every GP and said “We’re clearly the fastest team here, we expect to win the race because the other teams are slow rubbish.” you and the other usual suspects would be moaning about their arrogance.

      1. I dont moan about team but about other Hamilton fans (yes, I am a huge Hamilton fan) that unrealistically boast him and give him way too much credit. Yes, he’s one of the best but his car sure did help and still does. Why is RB suddenly the stronger car just to cater to their narrative in talking Ham up and Max down? Why? Why cant people just enjoy the battle without the need to attack his opponent. It is so childish, irrational and most of all unneccesary. I think they feel threathenend or something. Something is triggering their viciousness. Why? Ham cant possibly be threatened by Max anymore with this record tally. I enjoy both drivers and think would they have the same material there wouldnt be much between them other than one already proven his worth and the other just potential.

        1. Great comment!
          Fully agree on some Lewis fans.

  6. Shovlin is too modest as part of the reason Hamilton doesn’t have to work his way past straight away is obviously the certain knowledge of a car advantage and that the team will more than likely sort it with strategy anyway. After years of such a situation, it would be instilled in anybody that there’s no rush to go for the pass straight away and that it makes sense to save tyres while waiting for the inevitable. But as soon as he’s forced out of this luxury arrangement and really has to get on with it, he gets flustered and makes mistakes like everyone else like we saw in Imola now, and glaringly in Brazil with Albon for example, and then there’s all those years in McLaren where not only tyres were impatiently destroyed..

    1. – F1 is precision at all levels, particularly to execute target performance on track and Lewis has mastered that beyond any driver. Right now, no one is on Lewis’ level especially to achieve the car’s limit with edgy setups and difficult track conditions. Lewis gives you the best bang for your buck!

      Reply moderated
    2. @Balue

      and then there’s all those years in McLaren where not only tyres were impatiently destroyed..

      Exactly what years would that be? Whilst this false narrative persists, there is absolutely no evidence that Lewis was destroying his tyres more than other drivers. In fact, at the same McLaren, he beat Jenson Button, the famed tryre whisperer, by managing his tyres better more often than not.

      As for Lewis making mistakes, all drivers do, but it is a fact that he makes far less than most drivers. Of course, the same cannot be said of Max Verstappen. I understand that virulent anti-Hamilton bias has the effect of blinding people to the obvious.

    3. Pretty selective with your examples there @balue. Maybe you should cast your mind back to 2017 and 2018. It wasn’t that long ago surely?

    4. Everyone makes mistakes. Just because Hamilton made one doesn’t mean he’s “like everyone else”. Take the Ham-Vettel season as as example. Both made mistakes but Hamilton made far fewer. To say he makes mistakes just like Vettel would be a gross mischaracterization of what actually happened, just as you saying Hamilton would be “like everyone else” under pressure. He clearly isn’t.

      Reply moderated
  7. I believe this is where Max will lose out this season. He is fast enough to beat Lewis. He has the wheel to wheel racing ability to beat Lewis but I dont believe he can keep up the required pace, under pressure, throughout the season. Until now he has had the freedom to attack every corner with little regard for the consequences. In his first year of a season long battle, I dont think he can match Lewis experience and relentless pace. Lewis’ talent with managing tyres is second to none and I think this will prove pivotal this season.
    It was never true but some years ago lewis was falsely labelled as a tyre shredder. In truth he has always managed that balance between being very fast and maintaining tyre life. Just one of the many tools in his arsenal.

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  8. Just an aside, but if you look to the right of these articles you’ll see Lewis selling washing machines as a “brand ambassador”….. :))
    Let’s see now, what would be a useful caption here…..

    1. RP (@slotopen)
      4th May 2021, 21:37

      I don’t get that ad, so I looked it up. Celebrity endorsements are comical. Can you wash an FIA appróved racing suit?

  9. I think another part that is impressive about Lewis is his ability to make time without (usually) destroying his tires. Whether against rivals or even teammates in the other car, he makes up time. If he is behind, he pulls up close and exploits DRS/slipstream. If he is ahead, he usually pulls out a lead that the following driver(s) cannot attach to and avoids DRS.

    It is admittedly frustrating when all I want to see is some competition. But it is also impressive, especially given how regularly it occurs.

    1. Indeed, it’s not just the speed – it’s the speed while protecting his equipment. He can outrun someone who is going flat out in the same car while conserving fuel and tyres for when they’re needed. No other driver can match him for this skill.

      And no, I’m no massive Lewis fan – but he is the best driver of current times.

  10. Lewis won the Portuguese GP all by himself through another of his superhuman skills that is often overlooked – the ability to follow another car closely and compensate for the lack of downforce that ensues, whilst keeping the car from sliding all over the place and overheating its tyres.

    It was something that neither Valteri nor Max were able to do this race, and we see it so often from Lewis that it has become the norm expected of him. One of the best recent examples was Canada 2019 where he eventually harried Vettel into a mistake, and Monza where he pressured Leclerc for over 15 laps in DRS range, with Leclerc cheating by constantly moving under braking.

    Love him or loathe him, no other driver in recent times has managed to knock out the amount of superlative and exceptional drives like Lewis Hamilton does on a regular basis.

    1. First half of Silverstone 2019 when chasing Bottas is another good example @kbdavies

  11. “He also often doesn’t keep trying lap after lap. He’ll just sit there and then takes the opportunity.”

    This kind of goes hand in hand with the way modern F1 is. To get the maximum performance out of a car under race conditions, a driver has to ‘sit there’ for a bit and then deploy all of it at an opportune moment. They trick is keeping up with the car ahead while doing this setup work, which is where the Mercedes’ innate performance comes into play.

    Another two factors that help is that the defense Bottas put up wasn’t very impressive, nor can it be expected to be given his role within the team. Verstappen has wised up and is thinking long term, as he said outright this weekend. Red Bull thinks they have a shot at being in the title battle this year and they’ll let Hamilton run wide to close off Verstappen’s exit for now. We’ll see how things develop between the two teams, and the drivers, as the picture of who has a chance at the title becomes more clear. If Verstappen goes back to fighting for race wins rather than the title, one would expect him to not put up with such driving.

    That said, one can’t argue with the results. For this weekend, Hamilton’s approach worked and he got the win.

  12. Portugal with it’s slippery surface was very very kind for the tyres with very little degradation throughout the field. Doesn’t take away that Hamilton is a brilliant driver but some comments above seems like he’s a demi-racegod.

    1. But he is a demi race god – and there is nothing wrong with admitting it.

      We can argue who is faster between Lewis and Max tillbyhe cows come home, but what we cannot argue about is the arsenal of skills that Lewis has accumulated over the years.

      His raw speed is indisputable
      His racing IQ is unquestionable. His tyre management is almost mythical. His wet weather performance absolutely unimpeachable, and his feedback/development abilities now well established.

      Simply put, no other driver has managed amass and deploy so many skills with devastating effect on a regular basis.

      Reply moderated
  13. Lew-GOAG or Lew-God i have seen him called lol Silly name but it might have merit to it.

  14. Save battery in DRS, save battery in DRS, save battery in DRS……SPAM OVERTALE BUTTON FOR A LAP AND DRS PASS!

    Wow….riveting…..

    1. ‘Overtake’ button even lol

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    5th May 2021, 13:56

    I remember Dave Hobbs, the commentator on Speed and NBC, comment that Lewis is the best overtaker in F1. I agreed then and I still agree with him. Even with DRS, Lewis makes the passes look spectacular.

    The way he tracked down Leclerc last week with Double DRS which seemed an impossibility and the way he tracked Norris who was pulling away after the DRS zone was simply amazing.

    The way he passed Verstappen and then Bottas ensuring that Bottas would be left behind fighting with Verstappen for many laps was simply brilliant.

  16. Like a buddy said: he’s a hell of a driver.

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