Hamilton: U-turn has made things better
24 July 2011
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that the FIA's decision to allow F1 teams to revert to pre-Silverstone specs for the remainder of the season has helped McLaren become a more competitive proposition at the Nurburgring.
Confirming that the row over engine and diffuser rules that afflicted his home race two weeks ago had had a negative effect on the Woking team, Hamilton was clearly pleased to have a car under him that had already proven competitive earlier in the season and, allow engine maps will have to remain the same for qualifying and the race - as instituted at the European GP that preceded Silverstone - the Briton split the two Red Bull entries after a scintillating qualifying lap.
McLaren had been at the heart of the row at the British Grand Prix, with team principal at loggerheads with Red Bull rival Christian Horner during the Friday press conference as they weighed up the reliability breaks apparently allowed to respective engine partners Mercedes and Renault. Whitmarsh complained that he had only learned that Renault had been allowed a bigger throttle opening allowance during first free practice, while Horner retaliated by pointing out that Mercedes had been allowed its own concession even before the meeting had begun. Renault then had its allowance revoked overnight, before the row eventually led to all teams agreeing with the FIA that the rest of the season should be run to pre-Silverstone regulations.
"At Silverstone, we really struggled quite a lot with the rule changes – they massively affected us [on] corner entry, stability, all those kind of things," Hamilton admitted, having qualified a tactically-flawed tenth but come through to a battling, but fuel-starved, fourth in the race.
"All the downforce and grip we had, and everything we had developed, had gone out of the window pretty much. We were just on the back foot, there was nothing we could do but, coming back into this weekend, with the rules [as they were before Silverstone] again made it much better. It doesn't look like it's massively affected the two Ferraris and the Red Bulls but, for us, it's enabled us to get back in the fight, so that feels great."
Despite the MP4-26 having been returned to a more promising specification, Hamilton entered day two of the German GP weekend claiming that there was no chance of him fighting for pole, making his front row start something from beyond his wildest dreams.
"It is, absolutely," he enthused, "I wasn't expecting the car to feel so great, but I think we have found a really good balance throughout with the set-up, and I think we were comfortable coming back this weekend, with the rule changes, knowing we would be more competitive.
"But I don't think anyone in the team would ever have imagined we would be this close to the Red Bulls - and also be able to split them. That's fantastic, a really fantastic job done by the guys, and I am really happy I could put it up here for them.
"As I was sitting in the car before Q3, I was thinking I might be having to eat my words, but I would still do that. We really honestly never thought we would be anywhere near this place. I don't know what happened with [team-mate] Jenson [Button], but we were struggling with overall downforce grip compared to the others. I don't know if it was switching tyres on, but what was important was that, even though we weren't the fastest, we kept on trying to dial the car in and improve it and find little bits here and there and we did that."