Lewis Hamilton says he is “making it a little bit more difficult for myself” at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by trying different setup approaches in search of more performance.
The Mercedes driver wrapped up his sixth drivers’ championship at Circuit of The Americas at the start of this month, and says that since then he has been working on different setup directions to try and tap into even more performance from both himself and his car. After finishing behind teammate Valtteri Bottas in both practice sessions on Friday, Hamilton admits he is not comfortable with the handling at this stage. While conceding the work could hurt his race pace, he thinks it could pay dividends next season.
“I think there was a bit of a difference between the hard tire and the soft tire — there is quite a big difference in characteristics between the setup and I am really pushing the car into a different place over the last two races just to explore,” Hamilton said.
“It is easy to go too far but I am sticking with it and hoping that it works. We already know what does work and I am not keen to do what does work — I am really trying to see where else I can exploit the car and the tires. That is making it a little bit more erratic and not as smooth and simple in terms of my driving style.
“I wouldn’t say that it is fun. It is still just as hard work and I am making it a little bit more difficult for myself than it needs to be, but I feel I need to go through that process to see if I can edge out a little bit more for the future.”
Hamilton — whose car carried No. 1 briefly in Friday practice (pictured) before reverting to its regular No. 44 — admits a lot of his work is speculative given the way next season’s car might react differently, but he sees potential in trying new techniques with the championship won.
“I am definitely hoping to unlock something and utilize a couple of different tools that I haven’t touched during the year, because they never really worked before. I am trying to explore and see whether or not I can get them to work. It is a pre-emptive thought for next year, even though next year’s car is going to be different. There still might be things I can apply but I am having to take it all with a pinch of salt at the moment.”