After treatment for fatigue, Lewis Hamilton says he still might be suffering from COVID-19

Lewis Hamilton COVID-19
Lars Baron/Getty Images
0 Comments

Though he retook the points lead from Formula One championship rival Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton disclosed after finishing second Sunday that he still might be battling another nemesis: COVID-19.

The seven-time F1 champion was treated by his team’s doctor for suffering from fatigue and mild dizziness after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hamilton struggled to catch his breath in a postrace TV interview after charging from 14th to third (later elevated a spot because of Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification) and battling furiously for several laps with two-time champion Fernando Alonso during the 70-lap race. During the podium celebration with race winner Esteban Ocon and Vettel, Hamilton said he experienced blurred vision.

He said the symptoms could be the aftereffects of recovering from a bout with COVID-19 that sidelined him for a race last season.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary
Lewis Hamilton walks away from his Mercedes in parc ferme after a hard-fought third place finish in the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary (Florion Goga – Pool/Getty Images).

“I’m OK, had real big dizziness, and everything got a bit blurry on the podium,” Hamiltton said after arriving late to the postrace news conference, according to the F1 website. “I’ve been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year, and it’s still a battle.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone about it but I think (the effects of COVID-19) lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it, and training has been different since then. The level of fatigue you get is different, and it’s a real challenge.

“I continue to train and prepare the best way I can. Today, who knows what it is? Maybe it’s hydration, I don’t know, but I’ve definitely not had this experience. Had something similar at Silverstone, but this is way worse.”

After testing positive last Nov. 30 for COVID-19, Hamilton missed the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain. He returned a week later for the 2020 season finale in Abu Dhabi but admitted he was less than 100 percent before finishing third in the race.

“One of the [COVID-19] symptoms is it really drains you,” Hamilton said after practice Dec. 12. “I’ve been trying to sleep as much as I can, but recharging is not as easy as it perhaps normally has been in the past. I lost a good amount of weight just in that week, so as I said not 100 percent the last time I raced, but it’s by no means going to get in the way of me going out and giving my all tomorrow.”

He was sidelined just days after winning the Bahrain GP and two weeks after clinching his record-tying seventh championship with a victory in Turkey. Hamilton is among five F1 drivers who have recovered from COVID-19. The list also includes Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly.

Hamilton has won four of the first 11 races this season to open a 10-point lead over Verstappen entering F1’s August break.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary
Lewis Hamilton wipes his face during the podium celebration for the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary. The seven-time champion was treated afterward for fatigue and mild dizziness, his team said (Florion Goga – Pool/Getty Images).

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”