Hamilton's "wacky" set-up gamble fails to pay off


Mercedes head of trackside operations, Andrew Shovlin has admitted that a "wacky" gamble on set-up for Lewis Hamilton in the Styrian Grand Prix essentially backfired.

Following his defeat in France, Hamilton spent time in the Mercedes simulator at Brackley as he and his team sought to get their championship bids back on track.

The team also came up with a new approach to set-up, which, in light of the fact that Hamilton finished 35s down on Verstappen, albeit having made a second stop for tyres, clearly didn't work.

"We were exploring a fairly wacky direction with the set-up," explains Shovlin, "a radical approach which I think was maybe a bit better on a single lap.

"The question that remains is whether we've hurt our degradation," he admits, "and we need to look at that in the next day or two.

"I don't really want to go into details. Essentially, the window that we work in was much, much wider. We were sort of going further than we've ever gone, and just really understanding the effects of that.

"Lewis, before he came here, was doing a lot of work in the driver-in-loop simulator, and it looked like an interesting direction. But an important part of this year for us is adapting well to every track. We need to be a bit brave and original with set-up direction to do that."

With no upgrades planned, as Toto Wolff has explained, the team essentially has to focus on what it has, consequently set-up is one area where Mercedes feels it can improve, certainly in terms of the tyre degradation that is compromising its drivers.

"One big area is understanding this set-up departure that we've taken," says Shovlin, "and whether or not that has made life more difficult for the rear tyres on the long runs. Some of that we can just do by data. But we'll see whether or not that is work that can carry into the Friday of the race weekend.

"Fundamentally, the car is very similar. There are additional challenges of extracting the grip out of that C5 compound, the very softest rubber, on a single lap. That might be quite challenging if it is very hot here," he added, referring to this weekend's race.

"The other thing is, we're not looking for massive margins. I think we were down by a couple of tenths in the race, and there was a bit of degradation. But the solution to both of those problems might be the same thing.

"We'll just try to get the rears running a bit cooler, and look after the rubber a bit better, and you may find that both of those things come our way.

"So we'll focus on those areas, and it'll just be a case of seeing if we can come back a bit stronger in a few days' time."

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Published: 28/06/2021
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