‘We should go for slicks, no?’ How Hamilton almost joined Russell in doomed tyre gamble

2022 Canadian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton came close to joining his team mate in switching to slicks tyres for his final run in Q3.

The move backfired for George Russell, who spun into a barrier as he began his first lap. Hamilton, who stuck with his intermediate tyres, took fourth on the grid, his best qualifying position of the year so far.

He said switching to slicks was “definitely a consideration” for the final run in Q3. “It was drying quite quick and there was definitely some points on the track which were looking to be dry.

“But for me it felt too big of a gamble especially with the temperature. So we decided to stay on inters. Naturally I think it was the right way. I think it still needed another 10 minutes or so before it went to slicks.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
Hamilton’s decision may also have been influenced by the different wing angles on the two Mercedes. He is running a thinner rear wing on his car, generating less downforce, and would have found it harder to get the slicks up to the correct temperature.

Although Russell’s gamble on slicks did not pay off, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had no problem with his tactics.

“I think today we are not in the championship fight,” said Wolff. “I think if we would have given Lewis a better strategy with a cool-down lap, we would have been further ahead and I think George would have been probably in an equal place.

“But this is the moment where you can take risks and I’m up for risks. I’m up for ballsy calls. This is what he did and it could have been a hero moment. It wasn’t, but I think you’ve got to go for it when you are where we are.”

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Hamilton and Russell’s radio messages from the end of Q3

Hamilton was the first of the two drivers to pit. Although he opted for intermediates, he twice suggested switching to slicks:

BonningtonOkay so, box, box, box, box. So we’ll go for new inter. We’ll go for another inter. Let us know if you need a flap adust.
BonningtonSo let us know on flap.
HamiltonI just don’t know whether it’s going to be slicks, it’s going to be quicker or not.
HamiltonAm I coming inside or?
BonningtonNope. We’re going to be live pit stop. We’re going to go for new inter.
HamiltonWe should go for slicks, no?
BonningtonHamilton leaves the pits on intermediates
So you’re all clear exit.
BonningtonWe do have slicks available. We do have slicks available.
BonningtonSo Verstappen leaving the pit lane now on inter, inter for Verstappen. We’re in strat mode 16 at the moment.
HamiltonYeah it’s not slicks yet.
BonningtonOkay copy. Go strat mode four.
HamiltonHow’s my pace?
BonningtonSo we’re currently P6 [unclear] to Verstappen. All cars currently on inter tyres.

Russell came in later, and was initially told Max Verstappen was considering switching to slicks. He didn’t, and Russell was the only driver to venture out on slick tyres.

MusconiSo strat one, over the line. Box, box, box. Hard in-lap.
MusconiOkay. George, let us know if you want new inters or if you want to try the dries. Currently P5.
MusconiSo Verstappen has gone to new inters. Lewis new inters. Verstappen is just changing his mind to slicks.
MusconiCopy that, slicks. So Verstappen has gone to inters. Verstappen new inters.
RussellWhat So position are we? currently you’re still P5.
MusconiEveryone has gone for new inters, everyone has gone for new inters.
MusconiBox, box, box.
RussellHow many laps are we going to get?
MusconiGoing to get two laps. Going to get two laps.
RussellGo for it, give us a soft.
MusconiSo please confirm tyres.
RussellGet the slicks on.
MusconiSlicks, okay slicks.
MusconiSo we have time. And straight out. Blue 14 position one. So all clear ahead and you’re going to get two laps. So sector one is the worst.
MusconiBlue 14 position one.
MusconiSo still a very wet apex of turn one on the kerb. So you’ve got Magnussen on a lap at six seconds, he is pushing.

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13 comments on “‘We should go for slicks, no?’ How Hamilton almost joined Russell in doomed tyre gamble”

  1. Surviving s1 was going to be tough, only someone willing to risk it all could reap the rewards. Russell did not even try, as soon as he went off he just circled around. The tyres needed to be pushed, most of s2 and s3 apart from the elbow were dry enough.

  2. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    19th June 2022, 13:22

    It probably was worth the gamble. If you could limp round that first section of corners you could probably pull a couple of seconds back in the second ~80% of the lap.

    Had he not spun then that second lap on hotter tyres could have been real interesting.

    1. Probably not worth the gamble – you got the third fastest car. Two of your faster rivals are out, you been faster than your teammate all day/weekend. Theat means you on for P3 – best qualifying of the season.

      PLUS was he even going to beat VER if the slicks where marginally better? So what was he gamberling for P2 at best v a probable P3 or P4 if he stayed on inters.

      PLUS if a miracle happens and he got P1, he was not going to hold onto it at Canada against VER.

      Now he is in P8 with alot of work to do… chance of a podium finish probably gone.

      1. P8 with a good start might gain him a few positions in Montreal. It happened before in the past. The row before him is a Haas row, that might make it a bit dangerous though.

  3. petebaldwin (@)
    19th June 2022, 13:29

    I think it mirrors what we’ve seen from the two all season so far. Hamilton is much more conservative whereas Russell is more likely to go for it. As the car isn’t out front, you have to take a bit of a gamble at times to get further forward and it’s a big part of the reason why Russell has been out-performing Lewis so far.

    If they had a car that was the fastest, I think Hamilton would generally get the better of Russell as he’d be more consistent.

    1. HAM tried much more things rgd setup, to reduce the porpoising, this year. Thats why he got out-performed, cause such experiments more often go wrong. But its necessary to learn and understand the problems, so the more experienced driver should do it.

      Rgd. race strat you are right, HAM and bono are pretty conservative usually.

    2. As we see, the two car are running completely different setups.

      Acrording to this article Hamilton is running with less rear wing, relying instead on ground effect for his downforce.
      Russell is very possibly running with the floor a bit higher to minimise bouncing, but is running with more rear wing to compenstate for less ground effect.

      Hamilton would have been all over the place, where as Russell with a more stable car would have been better planted.
      Its also clear that Hamilton is the one testing the ground effect to its limits, with his car set up to try and get that working.

    3. @petebaldwin – pointless comparing the two drivers, they are on an agenda to fix the car. That in itself is a risk to your championship which he has already bowed out of.

  4. I was nearly sure that the gamble would pay off until I saw Russell take the line into turn 1-2 and going for the biggest pile of water on the entire track. Only reason others didn’t gamble was because of what they already had and would/would not gain from taking the risk, though I was a bit surprised not to see Ocon do it. Zhou another that could have tried his luck.

  5. Well done to Russell for trying, it shows he’s not afraid of a challenge. Starting 5th or 10th is not a big deal so it was worth the gamble.

  6. Looks like Lewis was influenced by Verstappen’s/Red Bull’s choice.

    1. @krichelle Actually I don’t think so. When Hamilton was told “Verstappen leaving the pit lane now on inter” he’d already gone out on his second set of inters – see the earlier message “you’re all clear exit.”

      That doesn’t come across very well in the transcript, I’ll add a note to clarify.

  7. I assumed Hamilton got rid of the low DF set up after practice but it seems he kept
    the skinny wing. That would explain his deficit to the other car in the wet. Hopefully for him that brings profits today. That car was comically slow on the straights in Baku.

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