Mercedes’ Director of Trackside Engineering Andrew Shovlin has explained why Lewis Hamilton started on hard compound tyres at the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was one of only three drivers to start Monza’s race on hard Pirelli rubber. The majority of the field – including the seven-time world champion’s teammate George Russell – opted to take medium tyres for the first stint of the race, leaving Hamilton as an outlier on the alternate strategy.
Hamilton pitted six laps later than race leader Max Verstappen for a new set of medium tyres, a compound one step softer than what was opted for by the rest of the top ten for the final stint of the race.
The resultant pace advantage Hamilton had was the key reason why Mercedes gave him hard tyres at the start of the Italian GP, something Shovlin explained in a post-race debrief.
“The DRS effect at Monza is less than half of what it is at most other circuits, and that’s the principal reason that overtaking is difficult if you don’t have a difference in tyre age,” he said.
“Lewis’ entire strategy on the hard tyre was about generating that difference in tyre age to the other cars,” he said. “We were able to run him longer, he was then on a fresh medium at the end of the race when all the other cars – the McLarens, the Williams, Alonso — were on their older hard tyres and that was enough to generate the overtaking delta that he was able to get through.”
The key role of the rest of the field
Hamilton’s switch to the medium tyres was the groundwork for his recovery from ninth on the grid to sixth as it gave him the ability to push on faster rubber rather than manage an already slower compound to the end of the race.
The convergence of other teams’ strategies was therefore essential.
Shovlin said: “We wouldn’t [have changed tyres under the aborted start if we could have] because what we were actually trying to achieve was an offset to most of the field to try and make sure Lewis was on a different strategy.
“So actually, we were quite pleased to see that the vast majority of the cars were starting on the Medium because that was the key ingredient for his race to work.”
Finishing fifth and sixth, Mercedes lost points to podium finishers Ferrari despite their strategic efforts.
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