Lewis Hamilton has declared his frustration at the lack of pace Mercedes possessed at the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix Sprint Race and questioned his set-up as he battled tyre degradation.
The 103-time grand prix winner started from fifth around Interlagos but had shuffled down to seventh come the final lap as he was passed by Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda, whilst just escaping the clutches of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo.
In the closing stages of the race in the country where he is a honorary citizen, his Mercedes car lacked grip even compared to his teammate George Russell. Hamilton would go on to finish nine seconds behind after sitting just two seconds down the road on Lap 15 of 24, and he revealed why his pace fell off.
“I don’t know, I just think we got a good start,” Hamilton said to media after the Sprint Race. “Then when I’m trying to get the right balance of the wing, and just got a lot of understeer and a lot of oversteer.
“In the middle sector, huge understeer. I don’t know whether we look to set up wrong setup, we probably did the set-up wrong. I don’t think it’s going be much worse [Sunday’s race] but it’s one of those circuits that it’s challenging for tyres.
“That’s the first degradation I think I’ve ever had here, I can’t remember when it was last that bad. For sure, frustrating. It’s just it’s frustrating that the car isn’t where we think it is.”
How does understeer cause tyre degradation?
Understeer is when the front of the car doesn’t turn as much as the driver desires, meaning that the rear of the car is slow to follow into the corner. The result is that the tyres are dragged across the track more than is expected, which increases the wear.
Coupled with the car usually moving off the racing line, or the preferred line by the driver, it can cause them to bleed lap-time whilst hurting their tyres. It’s something that talents such as Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Michael Schumacher dislike/d.
Particularly Hamilton as he needs the front of the car to turn so that he can maximise his famous late-braking techniques whilst remaining quick by preventing him from running too deeply into the corners.
Some drivers, however, prefer understeer as it can mean that the rear of the car is more planted and thus predictable. For example, Fernando Alonso won two world championships with understeer-y R25 and R26 Renault cars.
With the Mercedes cars locked in parc ferme now, set for the race on Sunday, there are very limited changes that the British racer can make to attempt to ease the problem.
When does the Brazilian GP start?
The Brazilian GP gets underway at 14:00 local time in Sao Paulo around the historic Interlagos circuit.
For American viewers that is a start time of 13:00 EDT and will be broadcast live by ESPN and ABC (free-to-air).
Whilst for British audiences, the race will start at 17:00 GMT and will be
broadcast live by Sky Sports F1. Channel 4 will show highlights after the race.