Hamilton: The car felt fantastic today
10 June 2013
Considering that the story of Mercedes' 2013 season to date has been all about excessive tyre wear - culminating in the now-notorious private test conducted with Pirelli at Barcelona last month - Lewis Hamilton was pleasantly surprised and delighted to find that his tyres didn't prove to be much of an issue at all in Montreal for the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix.
"The car felt fantastic today and I had good grip for the low-speed corners," he said.
Even so, it wasn't enough to allow him to hold off Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the closing laps. Hamilton's concentration on the task in hand was evident when he snapped at his race engineer to 'just me drive' in an almost Raikkonen-esque fashion.
"I was being chased down by Fernando which is like being chased by a bull and when you are at your max that's when you can crash so you don't need any more distractions," Hamilton explained.
In the end, once Alonso got within DRS activation distance of the back of his car, Hamilton knew his time was up: "The double DRS was a bit of pain in the backside because the Ferrari is so quick with the DRS," he said. "It was impossible to hold him behind and even when I got in the DRS of him it was impossible for me because I was on the limiter and I couldn't pull past him.
"It would have been nice to have kept second place of course but Fernando was very quick today," he continued. "I got close to taking the place back but he was just that little bit too fast.
"Still I'm very pleased with third place and it was a strong points-scoring day for the team with Nico's fifth place as well," he said. "We've taken a step up in the Constructors' Championship which is great for the team and gives us a nice boost going into Silverstone."
But the fact that he was still so far off the pace of race winner Sebastian Vettel, let alone losing second place to Alonso and arguably only holding on to third place because Red Bull's Mark Webber was struggling with front wing damage, means Hamilton was quick to agree that the team still had a lot more work to do.
"We are constantly improving the car, over one lap it feels good and in a race it does but then the tyres get too hot so we need to do more work on that," he said.
"I think it's just been a work in progress. We haven't really cured anything. It's not been a long period of time since Barcelona, where there was big trouble. I guess we've just been to two tracks where it's not got high speed corners, so therefore it's not really been a problem. We've worked on a couple of techniques to look after the tyres a bit more, brake cooling and all that kind of stuff has been added as well, which helps."
While Hamilton seemed untroubled by tyre degradation, his team mate Nico Rosberg had more of an issue and needed to make an extra pit stop late in the race after outbraking himself and flat-spotting his current set. Fortunately the team was able to get him in and out of the pits without losing track position.
"I think fifth place was probably my optimum today and, even if my race had gone perfectly, I wasn't able to match the pace of the guys in front," he admitted. "We were worried about the warm-up of the harder tyres, so we went for the option [supersoft] to protect my track position against Webber and Alonso, but in hindsight it would probably have been better to go the other way because I could have run a longer second stint."
"We still had some anxiety about the tyre performance in the high temperatures," admitted Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn. "So we were managing the situation carefully, particularly in the opening laps of the stints.
"Nico had a reasonably quiet race after a strong first stint and we will have to analyse if we could have made more of the car's performance today with him," he added. "We called him in for a third stop as a precaution, because he had flat-spotted badly the right-front tyre badly and we had nothing to gain or lose in terms of track position.
"Lewis drove a very strong race although it was a shame that he could not quite hold on to second position in the closing laps," he continued. "However, that wasn't down to him but rather the fact that we still need to find a little more performance from our car to compete with Ferrari and Red Bull.
"Overall, a positive afternoon and another strong two-car finish that is important for our position in the Constructors' Championship."