For the second time this season, tyre issues plagued Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton, culminating in him ending the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix way down in seventh place, whilst main championship rival Sebastian Vettel took victory for Scuderia Ferrari, allowing the German to extend his lead in the drivers standings to twenty-five points.
The Brit topped the times in the first practice session of the weekend on Thursday, but come qualifying day, Hamilton struggled to get the rubber working in the optimum performance window, seeing him unable to get a tidy lap together on the highly congested circuit, and forcing him out of the session in Q2, way down in fourteenth place.
The triple world champion was bumped up to thirteenth on race day, owing to grid penalties for returning McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Jenson Button, but on a notoriously hard to overtake track such as Monaco, it was never going to be an easy day for the Brit.
The Mercedes driver made a good recovery to cross the line in seventh place, having got back on the pace in the second half of the grand prix following his pit stop. It was apparent to the team, that Hamilton was able to get the tyres working again after the change of rubber, leaving the German team at a loss to understand why Hamilton was experiencing the issues early doors, as Mercedes Team Boss Toto Wolff explained to motorsport.com.
“Without touching the car, we have seen a car that was very difficult at the beginning, and Lewis didn’t like it, and he said that.
“After the pit stop, suddenly we were the quickest car out there, on defensive modes. You could say the Ferrari’s were switched off at that stage but we were too.
“I had a short chat with him afterwards, he said the grip was back – why that is, remains an Italian mystery.
“We need to understand it because Ferrari is able to understand and race the car in these conditions.”
Both Hamilton and Mercedes sincerely hope the tyre woes experienced on Sunday were Monaco specific, and that future races will afford them the performance levels they are accustomed to, but they cannot be sure it will only be a one-off, and will be working hard to try to get to the bottom of this seemingly recurring nightmare.
“Our target would be it’s the worst race of the season hopefully and an outlier like we had in Singapore, it’s just about bringing the tyres into the right window.
“We have a fast car, but she doesn’t like the tyres, and that is something we need to understand, why that is.
“Ferrari is able to put the car on the floor and it goes straight from the beginning until the end, with both drivers equally competitive or uncompetitive. That has been different all through the season for us.
“I have confidence in the group of people so the more mileage we do, the more data we collect, the better we will understand.
“Looking forward, I don’t know if we will have more difficult weekends or not. Normally, the longer it goes, the better it gets for us.”
The Canadian Grand Prix is the next race on the calendar, which has the low abrasive surface and slow speed corners, on which the Mercedes driver struggled to find grip with the ultra-soft rubber in Monte Carlo. The race in Azerbaijan follows, and that will also hold similar obstacles for the Brit.
The Brackley based squad need to find a solution to Hamilton’s problems fast, if they are to retain their title in 2017 and stop losing further points to the prancing horse, who seem to have found the perfect balance for their car and the Pirelli tyres this season.