Lewis Hamilton credits a change in his driving style during qualifying that unlocked more potential in his Mercedes as the foundation for his victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas appeared to have the upper hand over his Mercedes teammate throughout the early part of the weekend and duly took pole position despite Hamilton closing the gap. In the race, Hamilton got the better start from second to lead into Turn 1 and was able to secure a comfortable win, and says his own ability to adapt on Saturday proved crucial.
“I was just thinking how delicious that was,” Hamilton said. “It really has been an interesting first three races. We, as a team, definitely didn’t expect to have three one-twos, but now I’m proud to have been part of the work that everyone has done and to be a part of these results. Valtteri has really stepped up this year and done an exceptional job, so we’re both delivering on the weekends.
“A little bit of a struggle this weekend for me, but once I got into qualifying, a little bit of a shift in driving style enabled me to unlock a bit more potential with the car, which Valtteri was clearly able to do. And then the start was obviously great, which was really the decisive moment I’d say for the race.
“And then after that it was fairly straightforward. I managed to have quite good pace today compared to practice two — long-run pace — so I’m really, really happy with it. You can see it’s still quite close with us all and I think it’s just down to little small details of overall performance that’s enabling us to come out with the results we’re pulling.”
Although Bottas stayed close in the opening few laps, the Finn soon had to drop back and Hamilton says he felt more comfortable as the race progressed.
“Valtteri was really quick. The changes that I made in qualifying, driving style-wise enabled me to be able to deliver fairly decent performance to at least match Valtteri but once you’re in the lead, you gauge it a little bit more — you can utilize your pace, you can see where your weaknesses are and you can build and work on them lap after lap.
“But after I got probably the first couple of laps, then all of a sudden I started to get in the groove and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got the pace today, let’s see how I can keep these tires alive and deliver to the strategy that we were supposed to…’
“It was supposed to be a one-stop but then the Ferraris converted, which meant we then converted and it was an interesting play… but really on point and their decision to do a double-stacking pit stop for us today… I didn’t actually know he was behind me in the pit stop. Fantastic job by the team.”