Lewis Hamilton’s “absolutely instinctive understanding” of tyres sets him apart from his rivals. That’s the verdict of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff after the reigning F1 champion disputed team strategy while en route to victory at last Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton started on pole at the Circuit de Catalunya as Mercedes once again underlined their superiority over Red Bull and co.
The 35-year-old blasted his way down to the first corner from the front of the grid and didn’t look back as he led from start to finish.
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Hamilton came in for fresh tyres late in the race to ensure he could make it through to the end in warm conditions.
The Brit did so after telling his Mercedes team-mates to scrap plans to put the soft tyres available that weekend on his W11.
Hamilton’s decision paid dividends as he finished 24 seconds clear of second-place Max Verstappen and extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Having seen Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas initially struggle for grip after changing to the softs, Wolff hailed the six-time champion.
“At the moment he drives in a league of his own, I must really say,” said Wolff. “Totally under control, switching back the engine to save some mileage for races that are more difficult.
“The most special thing for me is that at the end we were ready to put soft tyres on his car, because it was not a lot of laps left and it was the logical choice, and he said: ‘Don’t give me the softs, give me the medium’ – and you can see that lost Valtteri’s race.
“We put the soft on Valtteri and logically, you catch up on Verstappen and you probably overtake, or at least be in the fight. And the tyre had no grip… [Lewis has an] absolutely instinctive understanding.”
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Hamilton’s performance in Spain was all the more remarkable given Mercedes had struggled in the heat during the previous race at Silverstone.
Wolff paid tribute to the team’s hard work behind the scenes as he looked forward to more warm weather at the Belgian Grand Prix later this month.
“What makes me the most happy is after a difficult weekend in Silverstone on very hot tarmac, we have been able to recover, take the right conclusions and win in the same conditions, and that comes down to the great work that’s been done in the factory from the vehicle dynamics teams, the simulation guys, from everybody on the engineering side that was involved,” said Wolff.
“It shows the strength of the team. Hopefully [Spa] is very hot!”
Hamilton’s victory in Spain was the 88th of his career and he’s now just three away from matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time record haul of 91 wins.
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