THE ULTIMATE ROLLER COASTER
F1 – you build your training up and get to
a certain level, but in the end it’s miles in
the car and actual racing that conditions
your body and gets you used to it.
“Once you are more used to it, that’s
when you start to lean on it more in the
car – you’re not just a passenger.”
Hamilton is clearly not a passenger
on a qualifying lap. This year he caught
and passed the legendary Michael
Schumacher’s record of 68 all-time F1
pole positions. (Fittingly, Hamilton’s 69th
pole came at super-fast Monza.) Fitness is
something the 32-year-old Brit focuses
on specifically, because it’s fundamental
to him finding the ragged edge.
“I use my core to lean on different
parts of the seat to feel the car in
different positions,” he explains. “If you
just sit there and it throws you around,
you have no feel. If you tense up and
adjust your car to how you’re going to
balance, it’s more like a go-kart that way.”
Finding the limit in an F1 car is about
finding your own limit, too. Sure, there are
physical performance limits for the car
itself, but there are also physical – and
mental limits – for its driver. The higher a
driver’s own limits, and the better his or her
ability to reach them – then stay there, on
the fine line – the more effectively they’ll be
able to find and exploit the limits of the car.
“In yourself, you have to build up to it;
you have to recognize your limits and get
to them, and those can be different for
different people,” says Hamilton.
“Everyone’s geared differently I think, and
it’s about knowing how you’re geared.
“I think I’ve got a very good feeling for
my limits, and knowing when I’m at the
limit. You don’t get a lot of track time during
an F1 weekend, so you’ve got to get there
relatively quickly, because every single lap
of practice, qualifying and the race counts.
The sooner you can get there, the quicker
you can maneuver at the limit.”
This year, a new breed of car means
new limits to find, and Hamilton admits
the performance gain has been
substantial from the driver’s point of view.
“Compared with the performance
increase from 2015 to ’ 16, this year’s car
feels like we’ve skipped three years. The
jump is like we’ve gone from last year
straight to 2019! That’s the feeling. It’s got
so much more grip, you can throw it around
and put it in places where you couldn’t
even think about putting last year’s car.”
For all the aero development this season,
tires remain the fundamental factor when it
comes to race performance. Getting tires
“in the window” remains one of the most
important skills a driver can master.
“When you leave the garage, the grip is
quite good right from the off, but the tires
still slip on the track, so you’ll turn and
they’ll slide a little bit,” Hamilton explains.
“If they’re really cold, they shudder, and
it’s like this... (Hamilton gestures rubbing
your fist across a table and it sticking and
juddering.) As the tires get hotter and
“Once you are more used to [the
forces], that’s when you start to lean
on it more in the car”
HAMILTON VS. SENNA VS. SCHUMACHER – THE HIT RATES
With six races still to run in 2017, Hamilton had passed both Ayrton Senna and
Michael Schumacher for F1 poles. The latter’s 91 GP wins will be a longer-term project.
(STARTS 202*) (STARTS 161) (STARTS 306)
FIRST POLE (AND WIN): CANADA ’07
Six races in to his rookie F1 season with
McLaren, Hamilton took the pole and win.
69TH (AND COUNTING...): ITALY ’ 17
Hamilton broke Schumacher’s pole record
at Monza, going on take his 59th GP win.
(TOP) Eight poles
from the first 13
grands prix of 2017
mastery of qualifying;
converting six of
them into victories
demonstrates his race
pace and craft, too.