Tracks have become too forgiving, says Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says modern Formula One tracks don’t punish drivers for making mistakes.

Astroturf [artificial grass] and tarmac run-offs have replaced grass and gravel traps at many circuits. The 2008 world champion says that means drivers are getting away with mistakes which would have cost them dearly in years gone by.

“If you watch Sebastian Vettel now he always runs over the Astroturf and over the curb a little more than he should, going beyond the white line, which you’re not actually allowed to do but they let you get away with it,” Hamilton explained to the Daily Mail.

“In Senna’s day, if he went one foot over that curb, it would be grass and he would spin, and be penalized. He would be right on the limit, rather than over the limit — and I respect that style of driving more.

“Now you can go beyond and get back because modern tracks have run-off areas. They used to be gravel. Hit that, and your car was damaged or stuck. Now you can push beyond, go wide and come back on.”

“When you do and get away with it, you think, ‘Great’, but the reason I love street circuits like Monaco is there is no room for error and if you make a mistake, you pay. I don’t want people to pay by being hurt, but losing time, or having the car stop; that’s what racing is about.”

However Hamilton discovered just how punishing artificial run-off areas can be during last year’s Korean Grand Prix when a loose piece of Astroturf became attached to his car, slowing him down.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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