Hamilton “on a mission” in Malaysia

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says the team accept they made a mistake with Lewis Hamilton’s race strategy at Melbourne but aren’t panicking into making any changes to how they decide race strategy.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday he said:

Both drivers are getting on very well with their new race engineers.

As you saw in Melbourne was had one very happy Jenson Button who was over the moon with the way his team had prepared him for his weekend. I can think we can say now he is fully integrated with the team.

And I think Lewis came in from a different angle, he brought all the excitement, he drove his heart out was overtaking left, right and centre. Was he frustrated to put that much effort in and have so little to show for it? Absolutely, but he certainly doesn’t blame his engineers.

I spoke with Lewis on Monday morning and he wanted me to re-affirm to he team that he was grateful for the hard work and effort that everybody was putting in. And we go to Malaysia with Lewis very much a man on a mission.

Do I think with the benefit of hindsight that we got it wrong? Yes, but it’s like picking the score draws or the winners in football matches on a Monday morning, I can do that as well. With the benefit of hindsight, we got that wrong, that’s just the way it is.

We had a split-second – or, in that case, 30-second – decision to make, we were weighing up a number of options: was Lewis going to get past Robert [Kubica], were the tyres going to degrade more, were we going to be caught by Webber and the Mercedes, who knows?

There are many Formula 1 teams who make mistakes and the great thing about this industry is you get publicly tested in front of ten of the world’s fiercest competitors. We made Lewis world champion and he’s driven some fantastic races. But are we completely mistake-proof? No. Do we try to learn from that every time? Yes.

The same set-up gave Jenson his opportunity, two laps before he came in we told him “we’re ready for you when you decide” and on that one we got it absolutely right and won the race.
Jonathan Neale

He denied the team were rushing to copy Red Bull’s rumoured ride height control system and said increasing downforce was still the number one priority for the MP4-25:

Ride height control is one of a number of things we’re evaluating. I wouldn’t say there’s any silver bullet to explain why Red Bull are particularly quick. Formula 1 is still Formula 1, and it still relies on horsepower and downforce.

I think we need to look very carefully at the tyres and get the benefit out of those, I’m not obsessed by ride height control but I certainly know that if we bolted on another 20 points of downforce we’d go quicker.

And that’s been true last year and the year before: our principle focus a the moment is to bring aerodynamic upgrades to the car under these regulations. That will have two effects: one of which is straight lap time through better traction and the other is a greater return on investment from the tyres because as downforce goes up the tyres come in quicker.

Ride height control is something we’re considering but it’s not my prime focus at the moment. I just need to get some more downforce on this car.
Jonathan Neale

He also feels the team can improve its qualifying performances which are particularly important given how difficult the drivers are finding it to overtake:

The car feels good in the high-speed corners, the guys are very happy with the balance of the car. Every team is still looking at what we do with the option tyre, particularly in qualifying, and see how you get it to come in.

As we saw in Australia Renault got themselves into a really good position in the early part of the race. Robert drove a really good race but the Ferraris, which are no slouches those cars, driven by two very good drivers, struggled to get around him.

And then when Lewis closed at one-and-a-half to two seconds per lap the moment that he got in behind the cars the handing of his car just became different because you’re running in the turbulent air. So we’ve still got to really focus on what we do in qualifying because we’ve got aggressive drivers and we’ve got good straight line pace and we have to make sure we don’t squander those opportunities on Saturday.
Jonathan Neale

The team is bringing some minor aerodynamic changes for the Malaysian Grand Prix but are mindful of the weather which looks set to be wet throughout all three days:

There are updates for Malaysia. There are some aerodynamic details around the floor, I don’t know that you’ll see anything radical.

Looking at the moment it’s torrential rain out there and the best information I have it’s going to be another wet weekend so it promises to be an exciting race. Malaysia as a circuit has some high-speed corners which will suit the car but we’ve still got work to do in low-speed traction and make the best of our straight-line performance.

I think it’s going to be eventful, I don’t think it’s going to be a boring race!
Jonathan Neale

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32 comments on Hamilton “on a mission” in Malaysia

  1. Looks like Hamilton is going to have good result in Malaysia. But rain is unpredictable…

  2. Bertie said on 31st March 2010, 17:16

    I think in the predictions game you should also have to predict the average score. I am pretty sure that average score from this will be low – very low. I will be very surpised if anyone picks the top 3.

  3. One of the stats I think would help all of us in identifying driver of the day is whether there is any way of computing downforce points every driver is running. The above comment by Neale re downforce and horsepower says it all really. Just feel Keith you are the ideal radical thinking journalist to take the evaluation to a higher level if this can be cracked.

  4. Jhonnie siggie said on 31st March 2010, 17:40

    Rain is probably what Hamilton needs as this track is not ideal for the mclaren. Him and vettel seem to be the fastest guys in the wet but with rain comes unpredictability. If he wins that will be something but I bet the pundits won’t give him nearly as much credit as Button got for being lucky!

    • steph said on 31st March 2010, 19:39

      I don’t think Button was lucky. He was going backwards on the inters so was smart and brave enough to switch to slicks. He got it right and nailed his laptimes to get where he needed to be. He then managed his car right to the end and was clever enough to keep the car understeering when his rears were graining. It wasn’t the most exciting win and he was fortunate with Vettel retiring but credit where credit is due Button was a deserving victor.

      • Dragos said on 1st April 2010, 6:32

        Why he was going backwards on inters ? Lewis had the same car, same tires, overtook him and was going well. I think he was kind of frustrated by his pace and took a risk and it paid off… I think it was a bit lucky (not entirely … but basically).

        • Patrickl said on 1st April 2010, 12:12

          Yeah, he simply didn’t have a choice.

          On the other hand, Vettel was losing time on his inters too (he was holding up Webber) and he stupidly decided to struggle on. He only barely hung on to the lead.

          In the end Vettel staying out too long on his inters killed Webber’s race (since he had to wait a lap longer).

    • David A said on 31st March 2010, 20:21

      Sigh, Martin Whitmarsh was the first to give Button credit for his clever call…

    • DMW said on 1st April 2010, 18:59

      Yes, as both Vettel and Hamilton have pointed out, at the time Button went in, the forecast was for more rain. This was heard on the broadcast at the time too.

      So Button’s gamble was really a somewhat desperate move after getting passed by Hamilton and then falling backwards. It was not somehow lost on everyone else that there was a clear dry line forming–the prevailing info said it was not going to last. If it did in fact rain again, Button would have been the goat and he would have been mercilessly pilloried here as having made a desperate, panicked response to Hamilton’s superior performance on the track.

  5. Joey-Poey said on 31st March 2010, 18:13

    I know they keep insisting things are good between them, but a few more incidents like these and I could totally see some feelings brewing that the team is favoring prep for one driver over the other.

    • dsob said on 2nd April 2010, 14:18

      Oh, yeah, you got that right.

      Button outshines Hamilton 2 or 3 more in a row and Hamilton will just go ballistic, total meltdown. Can’t wait to those headlines, LOL.

      And by the way, Joey…WHO DEY !!!!!! Yeah, Cinci here, too.

  6. Lucas.M said on 31st March 2010, 22:17

    I hope Lewis’ race goes well in Malaysia, he deserves a win there

    (Can you set up a page about the future of Nick Heidfeld because I have some information about his future)

  7. Last weekend really was a weird one for Lewis. First gets arrested, then laid an egg in qualifying, and then on Sunday put in one of his best drives only to finish 6th and see his teammate win. He’ll set things right this time, though. :D

  8. Salty said on 1st April 2010, 0:15

    Am quite certain we will see Hamilton “push, push, push” as dear old Murray would have it, but still think the nature of Sepang is very well suited to Button’s driving style.

    Crouching tiger versus the praying mantis grasshopper.

  9. IDR said on 1st April 2010, 5:27

    “Mission in Malaysia”

    My name is Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton.

    Ehem….

  10. VitaRedux said on 1st April 2010, 9:02

    I have to say “Hamilton on a mission” fills me with dread. Reminds me of the last lap of the Italian GP last season. I was even expecting him to crash when he was frustrated behind Alonso last race – in the end it wasn’t his fault. Just take it steady.

  11. Hyoko said on 1st April 2010, 10:32

    A lot has already been posted about Macca’s mistake, mostly along the following lines:
    They ordered the pitstop assuming that the Ferraris, Kubica and maybe Button would have to pit too. They just didn’t, so… bad luck.
    Well, I think it’s not that simple. One team’s decissions are not independent from the rest. My point here is that Kubica and the Ferraris did not pit BECAUSE (at least partly) Hamilton, Webber etc. did.
    I’ll explain: It’s pretty obvious that if everybody pits, the advantage goes to the first pitter. So, if Ferrari etc were planning to pit but Hamilton pitted first, they had to reconsider it. Pitting afterwards would make them losers. Their best bet was then nursing their tyres the best they could, and avoid pitting unless it was absolutely necessary. So they did, and it worked just fine.

    • Patrickl said on 1st April 2010, 12:16

      Yea makes sense.

      I think it’s also that McLaren were hedging their bets. If it turned out that stopping was the right choice then Hamilton would have won (or at least he would have been ahead of the other 2 stoppers). If staying out was the best choice, then Button would win. Either way, they would have won the race.

      It’s too bad that Vettel dropped out. Would have been fun to see if he might have gone for an extra stop and if so if he had succeeeded in overtaking cars.

  12. Mclaren said on 1st April 2010, 14:16

    joey-poey.. Why you think that? Lewis was a little disappointment because webber touch him when he was the best chance to pass alonso., so not button won before him

  13. I thought lewis had a great race. He passed damn near everyone in sight and given a few laps probably would have gotten both Alonso and Massa. It’s too bad Weber decided to not to use his brakes and instead let Hamilton slow him down.

    I’m hoping for some rain in Sepang this weekend. It would be great to see Vettel v. Hamilton in the rain, assuming the red bull doesn’t fall apart again.

  14. JUGNU said on 1st April 2010, 21:58

    If there will be rain, i think it would be bad idea to bet against Lewis and maybe also Vettel. Both Men are searching for lost podiums.

  15. vettel, the prince of the wet circuits.

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