(Formula1.com) Lewis Hamilton was one of the few top drivers absent from last week’s Mugello test. And while Jenson Button’s Friday pace in Spain showed that McLaren’s test drivers no doubt did their job in Italy, Hamilton was not quite so happy with his MP4-27. He is convinced, however, that there’s no major issue. As long as his engineers can get on top of the minor details – and he can get on top of the Pirelli tyres – the 2008 champion should still be in for a good weekend…
Q: This year the season seems to be very exciting, as there is no real dominant team on the grid. What is your impression?
Lewis Hamilton: It is a very, very close season. You do not know where abouts you lay. The Ferraris may have brought a big update package for this race, which could give them a big step forward, but then again everyone could bring some very good updates. Then it is going to be interesting to see who has done better homework. There have been some interesting wins this year already, but this is exactly how the season is going to be and hopefully it will become one of the most exciting ones also for the fans in particular. Also for me all of this is a pleasant situation, as this is exactly what we want, rather than two teams dominating and then having a chunk in the middle and one at the back. Fact is that it was not too easy during the last races to overtake a Williams or a Sauber.
Q: What’s your guess – has the Mugello test had some influence on this race already?
LH: Every test you have will have an impact. We have collected a lot of data, which has shown us why we have struggled at the last races. We also have a lot of data on our updates, and on how we can improve on the set-up and various different things in general. Also the test drivers do a lot of work in the simulators, and work on the new tyre compounds and their integration into the system, so when I go back to the simulator next week I do not need to waste time on these things. So there are a lot of positives from that test in Mugello. But also in between any races there are so many things going on that we try to do better, like pit stops. And even during the race weekends we get so much work done ready for the next race, or even two or three races down the road. People watching the races do not really get a full sense of what is going on behind the scenes.
Q: Four races so far and four winners. What would it need to make you a fifth?
LH: I hope I can make it one for me, that’s for sure. Here you have to be quick throughout the race. Generally we are quick in qualifying, and we need to keep this pace also for the race.
Q: So how was it going today? A smile on your face?
LH: I am always smiling – but not necessarily over today’s result. I have to admit that it wasn’t a particularly good day for me. I struggled a little bit with the set-up, but in the end it was nothing serious. The upgrades work pretty well, we have a good pace, particularly on the longs runs, so we know that we are in the fight. I had a bit of an inconsistency and it’s very hard to pinpoint what exactly the problem is to change the set-up for the better, so we will be going through the data trying to find where the most serious issues are and try to cut that for tomorrow. To be fair, I have to say that the car already feels much better than at the last race, so when we are able to eliminate one or the other little issues we should be right there, as the balance is perfect.
Q: Pirelli have brought the soft and the hard tyres here, but not the mediums. Will that change the team’s strategy in any way?
LH: I don’t think that it changes the strategy. There definitely will be a bigger gap between the soft and hard compound in qualifying – probably one second, rather than five- or six-tenths. During the race the harder tyres should last longer.
Q: Your team has been working on a higher nose for the car. What do you think that this will change for you?
LH: Our team is constantly working on how to make the car faster, of course. The higher nose should be able to bring cleaner air underneath the car, which then goes through the rear floor and give you better downforce. This is also what other teams have, and we had to explore this for us and figure out if it worked. Hopefully it does. The guys in the factory work flat out, as there is a lot of pressure on all the teams, especially as we have this very close season so far.
Q: What will be the biggest question that needs to be answered this year in order to be able to win the world championship?
LH: In my eyes it is on how you are able to manage your tyres. When you do your first laps the car feels great and you have good grip on the rear. But after a few laps the car starts oversteering and you constantly work on prolonging the life of your tyres. You try not to brake too late and under-rotate the rear tyres, and not to wheel-spin on the exits of the corners and minimize the oversteer moments. It is a little bit frustrating, as you do not have as much fun in the car as you want to have.
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