Hamilton’s pace in the Formula 1 season opener last weekend was hampered by damage to the rear of his floor, which cost him downforce and also affected the balance of his car.
Mercedes has revealed a new close-up image of the broken floor, with its chief strategist James Vowles saying that Hamilton did a “fantastic” job to manage his car to the end considering the impact of the lost parts.
But while Hamilton suspected that the floor was damaged when he struck track debris on lap four, the team believes that it was actually hitting a kerb that caused the problem.
“On inspection of Lewis’ car after the race, we noticed some damage over what we call the tyre seal area,” explained Vowles, in Mercedes’ post-race Pure Pit Wall analysis video.
“If you look at this image [of the floor], you will see the broken carbon just in front of that rear tyre on that floor region.
“That area is quite sensitive aerodynamically, it’s both for downforce and also for balance of the car. And we believe we sustained it during the course of the race while riding over some of the kerbs.”
Vowles went on to explain that Hamilton’s balance issues especially hurt him because he was already having to run an extra long stint on the medium following an early stop to cover the risk of a Sebastian Vettel undercut.
“Lewis already had a very long stint on that medium tyre after covering off the threat of Vettel’s undercut, so he was already having to manage those tyres quite significantly, hindering his progress through the race and really had to look after that.
“But, furthermore, that floor damage wouldn’t have helped, it would’ve caused the rear to be more unstable than it normally would be, and he did a fantastic job bringing that car to the end of the race.”
While Hamilton’s broken floor hindered his chances of fighting with teammate Valtteri Bottas for the victory, Vowles said that nothing should be taken away from the flawless performance of the race-winning Finn.
“Valtteri was on it all weekend,” said Vowles. “You would’ve seen in qualifying he was there in contention for pole position and it was Lewis’ fantastic last lap that really put him ahead.
“Come the race, again his start was perfect, he was able to take the lead of the race and from then, he just lap after lap just pulled a small margin relative to the others behind.”
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1, 1st position, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 2nd position, and the Mercedes team celebrate victory
Photo by: Steve Etherington / LAT Images