So rare are weekends when Lewis Hamilton is “off the boil” or just not on top of his game that when they do occur, they stand out.
Hamilton’s run of form saw him finish no worse than second in each of his last seven Grands Prix, dating to last year’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. Additionally, he’d been on the front row each of the last nine races, the last six of 2016 and first three of 2017.
Statistically, his worst races of late were at Singapore, when he started and finished third, and then at Malaysia, where a sure win went away with his engine failure that was all-but the final coffin in his World Championship hopes despite the pole.
Since that point, Hamilton went four-for-four in wins and poles to end 2016, and kicked off this year with two more poles, a win in China and second on the grid and the flag in Bahrain. Bahrain was the first time new teammate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified him, and that was down to a sterling lap that netted the Finn his first career pole.
But in terms of being second to his teammate, Bottas had the edge all weekend on Hamilton, who qualified and finished fourth and lost the pace from Friday.
He explained what happened in a Q&A with Mercedes’ official website that posted today.
“The car was exactly the same in the race. Friday was a lot different. Then, going into Saturday and Sunday, the car was in the opposite direction,” Hamilton said.
“In general I was lacking the pace from Saturday onwards. I think I had the temperature issues from lap five onwards. From then it was a lot of turning down the settings.”
The engine overheating issue that occurred during the race also scuppered Hamilton’s pace. Hamilton said the team doesn’t know yet what caused the issue.
Hamilton added, “I was slow from yesterday onwards. As I said, I think I could have matched the times of the guys at the front. But whether or not we would have lasted as long with the setup that I had, I don’t know. With the backing off for the temperature I was losing a second at least.”
Hamilton re-iterated it was a speed issue and not a reliability one for why he was off pace.
“Right now we need to understand where the speed was this weekend – where I went wrong with the setup – and then come back for the next race,” he said. “I’m still second in the championship. That’s not the end of the world but, of course, I need to recover the pace I had previously.
“This weekend was not a reliability issue. It was pure pace based on the tires, temperatures and being comfortable in the car. There is no reason for me to think about reliability. I think we have had the strongest reliability so far.
“I don’t know right now (what happened) but we will do some work to fully understand it. I have some ideas but there is some work to be done to figure it out.”