Lewis Hamilton may find himself in the position where the Mercedes W09 will once again be powerful enough to reduce the need to overtake. There were some races last season in which Hamilton stuck it on pole and then managed the race from the lead on the following Sunday. He’s called for a closer fight in 2018, but thinks that the slightly heavier cars might make it tougher to stick it up the inside at the last second.
“The cars are getting heavier and heavier each year and that does obviously affect the braking zones. There’s various challenges in that the brakes are obviously at the limit, they’re not really developing much further than they have been the last couple of years. The technology’s kind of limited at the moment in the carbon industry.
There are parts of the lighter cars, the more nimble cars that I prefer of the past: easier to overtake, easier to manoeuvre in combat. With the heavier cars it gets slower and the heavier they are they’ll just continue to get slower in that respect.”
There were some blistering testing times posted last week around the Catalunya circuit, the general pace of F1 isn’t really being questioned. But Hamilton clearly believes that how the new cars react in the overtaking zone will be slightly underwhelming.
Despite its dominance in recent years, Mercedes hasn’t produced the best-designed cars in conditions where they are following in the wake of their opponents. Maybe Hamilton’s concerns are an homage to that problem too. If the philosophy of the W09 is similar to its predecessors in this department, Ferrari will definitely benefit should its own challenge be genuine.
One area that drivers can address to negate the ‘heaviness’ of manoeuvring in the overtake is to get stronger and physically fitter. Hamilton added:
“I feel like I’m in the best shape that I’ve been – I mean I say that every year but I train differently each year. This year the cars are quicker you need to be stronger.
Right now I’m a little heavier than I will be for the first race. From now until then it’s about cutting fat percentage down, keeping strength.”
F1 teams and drivers have another week of testing ahead and will be hoping that bad weather doesn’t cause another week of stuttered running. It gives the drivers more opportunities to acclimatise themselves to the new machines in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix later this month. It will be interesting to see if this concern about overtaking is noticeable; Hamilton’s rivals will be determined to prove him wrong.