Hamilton ‘at his best’ with Mercedes, says Toto Wolff
Despite Hamilton finishing second place to Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel at the season curtain raiser in Australia, Wolff described the triple World Champion as being “in a league of his own” during practising on Friday and is convinced the British driver has never been better since joining the team in 2012.
“Lewis is the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last four years, both on and off track. He has become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne,” said Wolff.
The team boss also went on to praise new driver Valtteri Bottas, after the Finn impressed on his Mercedes debut, finishing just two seconds behind Hamilton.
“Valtteri has settled in well and performed at a high level, rising above all the pressure and seamlessly taking over from Nico,” Wolff added.
Meanwhile, Mercedes have asked for patience after the season opener was marred by a lack of overtaking.
“Was this indicative of things to come, or just a one-off? The answer is a bit of both,” argued the team.
“From what we have observed so far, there are factors that will actually make overtaking easier this year. The magnitude of the tow effect is stronger in 2017 thanks to the revised regulations.
“Bigger cars equal greater wake. When the cars are charging down the straights, there will be an accentuated difference in speed when they enter the overtaking zone. The DRS effect too, is stronger.
“Thanks in part to the larger rear wings the lap time benefit of DRS has increased over 30 per cent. This again will promote overtaking – especially at tracks with long straights like China and Bahrain.
“Furthermore, there’s one key learning from Melbourne that has largely been overlooked. Sebastian Vettel was able to stick with Lewis throughout the first stint. Had he spent 16 laps tucked up behind the gearbox of another competitor in previous years, he would have ruined his tyres. Attack, and the rubber would have gone off very quickly. In this race, however, he was able to stay in the wake of Lewis’ car relatively comfortably and then push once he had clean air, ultimately taking the lead and the eventual win. That bodes well for closer pack racing this year.
“After complaints that DRS has made overtaking too easy in Formula One, we’ll now see overtaking as a real game of risk. Drivers are going to have to be brave on the brakes, look after the car and hold onto it. If you’re going to overtake in this new era, you need to fight for it properly. That’s the way it should be. Perhaps it’s too early to write off F1 2017 just yet.”
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