Mercedes explains Lewis Hamilton’s poor Sprint Qualifying start

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Mercedes’ technical chief James Allison gives a step-by-step analysis of what led to Lewis Hamilton’s poor start at the Sprint Qualifying race.

Formula 1’s first ever sprint qualifying race wasn’t as successful for Mercedes as the team would have wanted.

Although Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole for the sprint race, his lackluster start ultimately led to Max Verstappen finishing in front of him.

James Allison explains what went on in the moments before and immediately after the lights went out at Silverstone.

“We didn’t have poor starts across the weekend as in every start was poor,” Allison said in a Mercedes’ race debrief video.

“In fact, if you looked at Lewis’s start in the main event at the start of the Grand Prix, that was a pretty useful start but it was definitely not one of our better weekend for starts.

“We were certainly far more hit and miss than we would like to be. If you look at our performance in starts as a whole, we are normally one of the better teams and so this weekend was a little disappointing.

“I think perhaps one of the ways that it is easiest to explain the general problem is just to talk specifically through the worst start we did this weekend, which was Lewis’s start in the sprint qualifying race on the Saturday.

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“He had done all that good work on Friday, got himself up at the front of the grid, only to see that evaporate with a very lacklustre start on the Saturday.

“How did that happen? Well, in general when you do a start you are trying to arrive at your grid slot with your tyres at a temperature that is a little bit higher than you want when the lights go out, because you know that you are going to sit there for several seconds while the rest of the grid forms behind you.

“Lewis did lots of burnouts, got the tyre temperature up high, in fact he got it higher than we had recommended in the burnouts and was then sitting on the grid with the tyres cooling as we waited for the grid to form behind us.

“Good job that he got it higher than we had recommended because actually by the time everyone was ready behind him, his tyres had cooled sufficiently that they were actually a little bit lower than the target temperature that we had aimed for.

“A bit below where we wanted, so then when Lewis let the clutch out at the start, hitting by the way in the process exactly the target that he had been set, instead of the wheels biting into the road and gripping it perfectly, because the tyres were just a little bit too cold, the tyres instead of gripping the road perfectly they started to spin slightly.

“That always gives the driver an unnerving feeling because if the tyres keep spinning, the car simply will not accelerate.

“When the driver lets go of the clutch, he lets go to the specific target, the car is supposed to just leap off into the distance but the clutch is not fully let go at that point, the driver is still holding the clutch at the target.

“So Lewis did that, hit his target, the wheels lit up and Lewis then because the wheels were spinning, wanted to hold the clutch in that slipping position just a bit longer than normal, he hung on to the clutch for just about a heartbeat or two longer than he should have done in response to that original wheel slip.

“And by hanging on to that clutch just a heartbeat or two too long, he underdelivered power from the engine and as a result people came streaming around him,” concluded the Briton.

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